By ANDREA MCCANN
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Business and government leaders in Brazil and Colombia are more familiar with the Hoosier State after a small contingent from Indiana visited the two countries.
“The IEDC (Indiana Economic Development Corp.) continues to work to build its international relationships, and identified both Brazil and Colombia as key priorities for establishing new global partnerships,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger, who formerly served as IEDC president.
“Both countries have many similarities, in terms of economy and industry, to Indiana, and we believe there are a number of opportunities in terms of investment, trade, and research, particularly as it relates to agriculture and ag biosciences.”
Along with Schellinger, Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler and IEDC Vice President for International Engagement Andrea Richter took part in last month’s five-day economic development trip to Bogotá, Colombia, and São Paulo, Brazil. Kettler said deep relationships between Indiana and the two countries had never been established, so much of what the Hoosiers did was to introduce them to Indiana, including its convenient location within the United States.
“It had probably been 40 or 50 years since anyone from the state of Indiana had been there looking to open new markets,” he said. “A lot of people from both countries think of Florida and the East and West coasts, so a good chunk of what we did was tell them about Indiana: where it is, what businesses we have, the manufacturing, and the up-and-coming technology sector.”
He said they also described the ports, road and railroad systems, air hubs, and FedEx and UPS networks used to move products, to help them understand the ease of doing business in Indiana. In addition, the group made sure to emphasize the depth and breadth of Indiana’s research institutions.
“They were especially interested in Indiana’s network of renowned universities, both in terms of the high-quality research being produced as well as the built-in talent pipeline that comes with having schools like Purdue University, Indiana University, the University of Notre Dame, and Rose-Hulman in close proximity,” Schellinger added.
“They also were very impressed with our state’s assets in terms of connectivity. Being in the heart of the ‘heartland,’ Indiana offers quick and efficient access to key markets across the U.S., North America, and beyond by way of roads and bridges, air, rail, and water.”
Both said they had meetings at different levels with a variety of people. This included business association leaders, executives, the U.S. consul general in Colombia, ambassadors, and even former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón.
Schellinger said, “When we travel internationally, our focus is fourfold: to meet with companies that have invested in Indiana already to say ‘thank you;’ to meet with Indiana companies with operations in those foreign countries to see how things are going; to meet with business and industry leaders who may be interested in expanding in the U.S. to share the many benefits of doing business in Indiana; and to meet with government and university leaders to discuss opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships.”
To that end, the trip was a success in the eyes of both Hoosiers.
“They didn’t have any idea of who we are and what we’re about,” Kettler said. He explained the Colombians and Brazilians were unaware Indiana is No. 1 in U.S. commercial duck production, for example, which he thinks has trade potential, and they didn’t know the state ranks high in egg and popcorn production.
“We made them aware of what we raise. Overall, it was a very positive response.”
While Brazil is a competitor in some ways, Kettler said, several Brazilian companies have already invested in Indiana and the trip helped solidify those relationships and clarify other ways the country can invest in the state.
One such company is Corteva Agriscience, the agriculture division of DowDuPont, located on the north side of Indianapolis. The Indiana contingent met with Corteva representatives in Brazil and learned how work in each country impacts the other.
They also met with representatives from ag tech company Solinftec, which has announced plans to build its headquarters in West Lafayette at the Purdue University Research Park and bring 334 high-wage jobs to the state by 2022.
In Colombia, the free trade agreement has an impact on trade between the two countries. Kettler said the parties found ways they might be able to improve; for instance, pork exports from the U.S. to Colombia are not keeping up, hand there’s potential for more coffee exports from Colombia to the U.S.
“We were encouraged by the appetite of those we met with to explore new partnerships and investment and trade opportunities,” Schellinger explained. “The meetings and CEO roundtables produced incredibly informative and engaging conversation; I think we were able to highlight many of the opportunities available in Indiana, and we’re looking forward to following up with new contacts made during the trip.”
He and Kettler said discussions have already begun for a Colombian delegation to visit Indiana in the future to strengthen the newly established relationships, and business executives and government officials from both countries expressed interest in attending SelectUSA events in Indiana in June.
SelectUSA is a U.S. Department of Commerce program aimed at creating American jobs through economic development.