Visit with Japanese Business Delegation Starts Paying Dividends

Last month, I reported on an outreach mission that the State of Illinois conducted in partnership with the Keidanren Japanese Business Federation back in May. This event included an evening reception, breakfast with Governor Rauner and visits to UI-Labs on Goose Island. Since that time, I have reached out to all of the attendees I had met in order to begin a relationship with companies who may one day wish to consider Jefferson County for a future location. Here’s where things currently stand:

A key person I met during our reception was Mr. Naoki Ito, the Japanese Consul General for Illinois. Mr. Ito showed great interest in holding a series of roundtable discussions and outreach initiatives to showcase the current successes that Japanese firms have had in the downstate area. Given 1.) the success of Continental Tire the Americas here in Mt. Vernon, 2.) our proximity to AISIN in Marion, and North American Lighting in Salem, Flora and Paris, and 3.) the recent acquisition of Joy Global by Komatsu, I recommended that Mt. Vernon host one of these events. This will give the Japanese Consulate and possibly outside firms the opportunity to learn from our foreign companies, as well as help our downstate communities to realize the impact of foreign firms to the US job market and economy. This event is likely to occur next spring but we have already begun the planning stage.

In partnership with Craig Nielson of Effingham County EDC, I discussed with UI Labs what the potential could be for helping downstate manufacturers. Currently, UI Labs hosts the Digital Manufacturing & Design Institute on Goose Island within Chicago. This is a network of more than 300 partners working on product design and system engineering, supply chain agility, cyber-security, and digital integration and control of the manufacturing environment.

But down the road, UI Labs expects to have two additional opportunities that do not put the burden of travel on downstate businesses. The first is the Digital Manufacturing Commons project, an online and open-source platform that will allow remote locations to interface with experts, learn, contribute and implement their solutions locally. The second is a Digital Maturity Assessment, where experts visit plants and conduct on-site assessments so they can recommend solutions to current manufacturing challenges and make suggestions to reduce cost and increase efficiency. It is possible we may host a representative from UI Labs at a future JCDC Partner Luncheon or a separate event altogether.

Finally, I discovered that some of the representatives would be present at the SelectUSA Foreign Direct Investment Summit and reached out to them so we could have a chance to connect. The Keidanren reception was an exceptional opportunity, provided compliments of Intersect Illinois. We have a true ally at the state level and it is paying dividends!