Columbus leaders join Europe trip to attract investments

Trade Mission Begins

Columbus’ mayor and two area economic development leaders are heading to France and Germany to help promote Indiana and its south-central region to companies in an effort to attract investment.

Mayor Jim Lienhoop; Jason Hester, president of the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp.; and Kathy Ertel, executive director of the Jennings County Economic Development Commission will catch the last part of a governor-led Indiana trade mission to Europe. The local delegation will attend the International Paris Air Show, which starts Sunday, and then head to Stuttgart, Germany, for the Engine Expo, on June 21.

The trio will not be with Gov. Eric Holcomb and others when the trade mission begins today in Hungary. Their trip to Germany is separate from the governor’s trade mission.

Columbus wants to diversify the types of industries it has, so it is less reliant on the auto industry, Lienhoop said. Pharmaceuticals and aerospace were identified as two business categories to pursue, and Hester said in March that the Paris Air Show is the largest aerospace event in the world.

Skills used in automotive manufacturing transfer well to the aerospace industry, Hester said at the time.

The personal interest in the Paris Air Show for Jennings County is an opportunity to promote Muscatatuck Urban Training Center and the air space above it, Ertel said.

Muscatatuck, the Indiana National Guard facility in Butlerville, presents an opportunity for companies involved in cyber electronics warfare, unmanned systems and research and development, for example.

Besides the personal interests of both communities, they will be working collaboratively to promote the Hoosier state and region by meeting with prospective companies. Hester and Ertel are both representing the South Central Indiana Regional Economic Development Corp., Ertel said.

“We’re pooling our marketing dollars together to do more,” she said.

Hester has arranged for some appointments with companies, as has the state. Leads will be shared with communities that seem best suited to the prospects, Lienhoop said.

Lienhoop and Hester will have an opportunity for further relationship building with France-based Faurecia, which has three operations in Columbus that combined employ about 1,800 workers. Its new $64 million data-driven manufacturing facility opened in October at the former Walesboro Airport site off County Road 450S.

“It’s goodwill with Faurecia, and to thank them for continued investment in Columbus,” Lienhoop said.

The Engine Expo in Stuttgart will give the local trio an opportunity to meet with companies in the automotive industry — a primary industry in Columbus and other south-central Indiana communities.

“We’re trying to identify companies that have sales in the U.S. and would like to get closer to their customers. We feel the Midwest offers advantages with logistics and distribution, especially if you realize that two-thirds of the U.S. population can be reached within 11 hours by truck,” Lienhoop said.

About the trip

What: Trade mission to Hungary and France by an Indiana delegation, led by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

When: Today through June 20.

Local connection: Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop, Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp. President Jason Hester, Jennings County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Kathy Ertel.

Local interest: International Paris Air Show, which starts Sunday. Lienhoop, Hester and Ertel will catch up with the Indiana delegation there.

Itinerary highlights:

Today: Holcomb and Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger to meet with the Hungarian minister of national economy, and delegation to attend a business forum.

Wednesday: Holcomb and Schellinger to meet with the Hungarian minister of foreign affairs and trade, and sign a memorandum of understanding to expand and diversify partnerships.

Thursday: Delegation to meet with Blue Solutions, a subsidiary of France-based Bollore Group and the parent company of BlueIndy.

Saturday: Delegation to attend the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race, and meet with automotive and motor sports firms.

Sunday: International Paris Air Show begins. Delegation to meet with executive and representatives of the Aerospace Industries Association.

Monday: Indiana will present its exhibit at the Paris Air Show. Meet with executives of GE Aviation and Faurecia.

June 20: Meet with prospective French companies.

June 20-22: Lienhoop, Hester and Ertel to attend Engine Expo in Stuttgart, Germany.

Author photo
Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at or (812) 379-5639.