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Business

Japanese Consul-General: Eastern Iowa ripe with economic partnership opportunities

Japanese trade official visits Marion, Cedar Rapids

Nick Abou-Assaly (from left), mayor of Marion, State Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha, Rep. Art Staed, D-Cedar Rapids, and Naoki Ito, the Consul-General of Japan in Chicago, tour Freund-Vector Corp. in Marion on Friday, July 19, 2019. Ito toured the manufacturing facility, which makes machines used in the process of turning pharmaceutical powders into tablets and tablet coatings. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Nick Abou-Assaly (from left), mayor of Marion, State Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha, Rep. Art Staed, D-Cedar Rapids, and Naoki Ito, the Consul-General of Japan in Chicago, tour Freund-Vector Corp. in Marion on Friday, July 19, 2019. Ito toured the manufacturing facility, which makes machines used in the process of turning pharmaceutical powders into tablets and tablet coatings. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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Though Iowa and Japan are geographically distant, opportunities abound for the two to retain and build close economic partnerships, said representatives of the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago.

Naoki Ito, the Consul-General of Japan, made stops in Marion and Cedar Rapids Friday morning with other representatives from the Consulate-General as well as the Chicago office of the Japan External Trade Organization.

Ito said Iowa currently has 70 Japanese business facilities providing a total 4,400 jobs, and said he hopes his visit will help further new business partnerships between the two parties in the future.

“I’m a strong believer in the significance of this region for Japanese companies to continue to make investments,” he said.

“I’m really determined to promote this economic partnership, trade and investment relations.”

The Consulate-General and the Japan External Trade Organization are part of Ito’s Grassroots Caravan initiative, under which he and his staff have made 16 visits around the Midwest, aiming to connect with areas where Japanese companies have made investments.

The delegation toured Marion-based Freund-Vector, a Japanese-owned manufacturer of custom machines that include mixers, compactors and dryers capable of turning pharmaceutical powders into pills and tablets.

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Freund-Vector opened its Marion facility in 1973 and makes around 100 machines annually, with a typical price point between $500,000 to $1 million, shipping them to 30 to 40 countries around the world, company executives said.

Ito later stopped at the Industrial Technology Center at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, where the visitors saw facilities and labs used for different school programs, including advanced manufacturing and robotics, construction management and electronics engineering.

College educators highlighted hands-on resources accessible to department students, such as a virtual reality welding simulator and 30,000- and 60,000-pound indoor wind turbine parts.

In 2018, Japan was Iowa’s third-largest export market, for $975 million of products, and was the fifth-largest country in imports to Iowa, with $529 million of goods, according to business and industry statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.

• Comments: (319) 398-8366; thomas.friestad@thegazette.com

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