(WHAS11) -- It's been 26 years since Kentucky Governor Martha Lane Collins looked to Japan and Toyota for Kentucky’s economic future. Now, current Governor Steve Beshear is also looking overseas to what he says could be Kentucky’s "next Japan."
He's a governor that loves ribbon cuttings but one last year in Elizabethtown was a first for Kentucky.
At the ground blessing for the India-based UFLEX packaging company - Steve Beshear sat cross-legged in a pit for more than an hour with incense burning and a Hindu priest saying prayers. With a bindi on his forehead, Beshear channeled India's economic energy.
“A $180 million investment and at least 250 jobs,” Beshear said.
One year later, Beshear is just back from his third trip to India. The Confederation of Indian Industry called it a "high powered delegation" from Kentucky. The trip was hosted by the company which will soon open in Elizabethtown.
“You know it's one thing for me to tell Indian business folks that Kentucky is great, but it's another thing when one of their friends, one of their fellow business people, that is now here and doing business tells them,” Beshear said. “So I think it's going to produce some great activity for us.”
Only about eight Indian-owned companies currently do business in Kentucky - about 1,500 jobs.
Beshear says Kentucky has a long way to go -- so he's gone a long way - the 16,000 mile round trip - three times to make a personal connection with the world's fourth largest economy.
“But you know what? The Indian culture and Kentucky's culture have a lot in common. They value personal relationships and they want to deal with people that they feel good about, that they feel are honest are going to treat them right and they return that kind of feeling,” Beshear said.
Beshear says Indian companies want to do business in America, but are under the impression that US regulations take too long.
“The Uflex company has now been over there with us telling them - 'Hey, that's a bunch of baloney. It took us six weeks to get the approvals we need and now we're going to be opening our doors here in the next month or two.' So I'm very excited about our prospects because this is building,” Beshear said. “The momentum is building in India now about doing business in Kentucky and I think we're going to get some good results out of it.”
One of Beshear's sons, attorney Andrew Beshear, represents UFLEX which is receiving Kentucky tax breaks.
Beshear hopes to announce deals with other Indian-owned businesses within months.