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Holcomb leading Indiana trade mission to Taiwan, South Korea

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Holcomb to speak on advanced manufacturing at Davos economic forum

Gov. Eric Holcomb, center, speaks with guests attending a Friends of Indiana reception in April in Monaco. The Republican chief executive this week is leading an Indiana trade mission to Taiwan and South Korea.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and a delegation of Indiana business and education leaders are beginning a one-week Asian trade mission that includes visits to Taiwan and South Korea.

The Hoosiers were expected to arrive early Sunday morning Region time in Taipei, Taiwan, for two days of meetings with business executives, top academics and government officials in the Chinese island nation that's home to nearly 24 million people.

They'll travel to South Korea Wednesday for two additional days of public events and private confabs before flying home to Indiana on Saturday.

"It will be a jam-packed week of high-caliber, high-potential meetings," Holcomb said in an interview with The Times.

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The Republican chief executive is the first governor of a U.S. state to visit Taiwan since before the COVID-19 pandemic. The last trade mission by an Indiana governor to Taiwan was led by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels 17 years ago.

Holcomb said partnerships with Taiwan are particularly essential today as Indiana goes all-in on semiconductors, thanks in part to the recently enacted CHIPS and Science Act championed by U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., and U.S. Rep. Frank J. Mrvan, D-Highland, and a $1.8 billion SkyWater Technology semiconductor research, development and production facility set to be constructed in West Lafayette.

The hometown of Purdue University also soon will be the U.S. home base for chip design by Taiwan's MediaTek, which provides chips for wireless communications, high-definition televisions, handheld mobile devices, navigation systems and consumer multi-media products.

"Taiwan is kind of the center of gravity for semiconductor design and production," Holcomb said. "So we're meeting with a number of companies that revolve around, not just semiconductors, but industries that will determine the economies of the future."

Mark Lundstrom, dean of Purdue's College of Engineering, and Purdue University President-designate Mung Chiang are joining the governor for portions of the trade mission, along with representatives of the state's commerce agency, the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

"Boilermakers have longstanding academic partnerships with institutions in Taiwan and South Korea, and we look forward to attracting tech companies and jobs to the hard tech corridor in the Hoosier State," Chiang said.

The governor insisted, however, the long-term benefits of his Asian trip will reverberate across the state, even if it seems West Lafayette is seeing most of the gains in the near-term.

"Northwest Indiana is on a direct flight path between one of the biggest economies in our country and our state's capital city with Purdue kind of in the middle. That makes it very attractive, logistically speaking, for companies to have access to talent, and then manufacture and design. So, yeah, we'll be promoting the whole state of Indiana, and I think our record speaks toward that end," Holcomb said.

At the same time, Holcomb pointed out the focus in South Korea in the latter half of the week will include advanced manufacturing, agriculture, bioscience and other industries that already have a well-defined niche in Northwest Indiana.

"I'm committed to building an economy of the future with these global partners who are helping propel Indiana forward by creating tomorrow’s businesses, today," Holcomb said.

Indiana Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers said the overall goals of the trade mission include not only renewing and growing Indiana’s economic and academic partnerships, but reinforcing the state’s commitment to innovation and interest in working across international lines to build the economy of the future.

"The unprecedented economic progress Indiana has secured this year doesn’t happen without like-minded partners here and around the world," Chambers said. "A shared commitment to innovation and collaboration is key to continuing our success, and I’m thrilled to spend the week strengthening that collaboration with our friends in Taiwan and South Korea."

Holcomb said there's a "0% chance" of him making a surprise visit to North Korea on this trip, even though Kim Jong-Un, the supreme leader of North Korea, is perhaps as big of a basketball fan as the Hoosier head honcho.

Instead, Holcomb plans to focus on sparking and nurturing business relationships with South Korean company leaders and speaking on Indiana’s commitment to innovation to members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Seoul.

"I couldn’t be more energized to spend this week building new relationships, reinforcing long time ones and strengthening key sector partnerships with Taiwan and South Korea," Holcomb said.

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Indiana already is home to more than 1,050 foreign-owned business establishments, representing more than 40 countries and territories — including 10 from Taiwan and 12 from South Korea.

In 2021, 47 foreign-owned businesses committed to locating or growing in Indiana. Together, these firms plan to invest $3.55 billion in Indiana, creating jobs with an average wage of $29.57 per hour and accounting for 14% of the total new jobs committed last year, according to the IEDC.

Records show this is Holcomb’s 12th international economic development trip since taking office in 2017.

The cost of the trade mission is being paid for with private donations to the Indiana Economic Development Foundation.

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