From Honda of Indiana, News of Exports, Natural Gas, Skills

NAM President John Engler was in Indiana Wednesday and traveled to Greensburg for a tour of the Honda plant there. The Republic newspaper of nearby Columbus was on hand and published a page one piece, “State coped well with downturn.”

The Honda plant is notable because it manufactures the natural gas-powered Civic GX there. In addition, in September Honda announced that the plant would build Honda Civic Sedans for sale in Mexico and export to 22 Latin American and Caribbean nations. In his remarks last evening at the Japan-America Society of Indiana, Engler recalled an earlier visit to the Subaru plant in Lafayette, Ind., which also exports to Latin America.

So there are more examples of U.S. plants, employees and communities that would benefit from enactment of the Colombia and Panama Free Trade Agreements, making their Indiana-manufactured products more competitive abroad.

Interesting, too, that the talk turned so quickly to the need for skilled employees, even during an economic downturn.

Rick Schostek, vice president of Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, said nearly 30,000 applied for about 1,000 openings in 2008, allowing plant managers to carefully select workers.

Plant officials looked for workers with a basic foundation in math and reading and wanted people who could work in a team environment and had good problem-solving skills.

“We can teach our processes here,” Schostek said. “We just need that basic foundation.”

Engler said manufacturers’ success depends primarily on workers’ education.

“And that doesn’t necessarily mean a four-year college degree,” Engler said.

“It can be an associate’s degree or specialized training.”

Engler also suggested that high schools start training students interested in manufacturing so that those who want to go directly to a job after graduation will be better prepared.

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