International Industry tour-overarching goals

Hey everybody-  My international industry academic research tour has started in Iceland.  When I’m done in a city I’ll post an update.  Check ’em out from time to time if you have a chance.  Below is a background/rationale for the trip.

This academic research trip has two overarching goals:

1) To present research and learn from other scholars at seven academic conferences

2) To discover new research related to international industry through visiting and observing successful multinationals operating in Europe

The loss of factory jobs has been particularly economically devastating in the traditional manufacturing areas of the country.  The Midwest-region of the US built its economies on manufacturing during the industry’s heyday, but with the nationwide shift in jobs to the service and high-tech industries, the Midwest and the state of Indiana face tremendous challenges in attempting to reshape their economies and retrain their workforce to better handle the realities of the global marketplace.   In spite of the ongoing exodus of US companies from domestic factories, international companies manufacturing in America have made up for many of the job losses associated with American deindustrialization.  More than 100,000 Hoosier manufacturing jobs are with international corporations.  In fact, manufacturing jobs represent 2/3 of international employment, the third greatest share in the nation (InContext, 2010).  Attracting this foreign manufacturing and providing incentives for current operations to expand are important for the future economic health of Indiana.

What makes an industrial company successful in an increasingly competitive global marketplace?  This is a question that applies to organizations beyond Terre Haute, as many industrialists producing in Europe have faced the same challenges.  Similar economic environments exist in both the US and Europe, including high union involvement and stringent minimum wage laws, overtime laws, worker safety regulations, and other barriers to operational efficiency.  Many of the same opportunities exist as well, including access to consumers with high discretionary incomes, stable political and financial structures, and low transportation costs to geographically proximate markets.

Academic research often uncovers trends through quantitative analysis, and presenting research written and edited in recent years will be a cornerstone of this trip.  Another style of research, firsthand anecdotal insight also has value, and data gained through asking observational questions in an organizational setting provides much insight.  Case study analysis, common in qualitative research, will be facilitated through site tours, which can be the best way to obtain thorough knowledge of the inner workings of these manufacturing operations.

Researching European manufacturing operations and their means of success allows for a better understanding of how they sustain their achievements and how similar industrialists might be successful while operating in Indiana.  The ability to tour multinational corporations which have or may have operations in the US will allow for a greater comprehension of those ingredients that allow international industry to flourish.  In order to understand under what conditions a foreign industrialist would decide to expand or operate in the US it is necessary to talk to factory managers and witness the operations within these successful domestic production facilities.  The opportunity to absorb the goings-on in many of these factories and learn the thought processes of executives and factory managers from multinationals will provide insight that enhances my overarching research inquiry into replenishing domestic production jobs whose loss has economically hurt traditionally manufacturing areas in the US such the Wabash Valley area.

In addition, investigating the societal factors that best enable their industries to expand operations provides new insight into several disciplines.  A key societal factor affecting organizations,-local culture-is another important component worthy of investigation.  Where another culture is unknown, respect and appreciation for uniqueness are considered a way of displaying of respect in lieu of completely understanding the other culture.  It is my goal to further absorb other cultures through activities beyond academic and organizational structures.

There are numerous reasons why international industry is important to the global economy as well as to the state of Indiana in particular.  Foreign companies employ more than six million Americans, generally paying much higher salaries than domestic businesses.  Payne and Yu (2011) reported that pay is 30% higher for workers in internationally-based American manufacturing than in domestically-owned US companies.  These producers paid wages that were on average 60% higher than other American-owned manufacturing firms and had 40% higher productivity per worker and 58% greater output per worker than domestic manufacturing plants (Jackson, 2012).  International automobile companies including Subaru, Honda, and Toyota now employ thousands of Hoosiers.  This Foreign Direct Investment dedicated to industry also represents a sizeable part of the Terre Haute economy- through obvious impacts such as high-paying jobs in the Sony Blu-Ray production facility and  Aisin Brakes, a Japanese company producing in Terre Haute.  

Indiana is the nation’s most manufacturing-intensive state, with about a third of goods and services produced from that sector (Hicks, 2007).   “Manufacturing is the best-paying industry in Indiana, but the state really doesn’t have anything else taking its place that pays as well while the manufacturing jobs are being lost,” said economist Sean Maher, who tracks Indiana for financial adviser Moody’s (Evanoff and Russell, 2008).  The importance of international industry to the health of the local economy cannot be underestimated.

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