A Whitley County manufacturer welcomed a special guest in an effort to strengthen business ties between northeast Indiana and Japan.

Kyocera SGS Precision Tools, a medical device manufacturer in Columbia City, welcomed Naoki Ito, Consul-General of Japan for the Chicago region, representing Indiana and nine other Midwestern states. The visit was in conjunction with the Japan-Northeast Indiana Summit in Fort Wayne Feb. 16.

The summit was hosted by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership in collaboration with the office of the Consulate-General, the Japan External Trade Organization and JTL America. It served to highlight the Japan-northeast Indiana business relations and the country’s role in the region’s strong manufacturing sector.

More than 280 Japanese-owned businesses operate in Indiana, employing more than 58,000 workers, and Japanese companies have 24 locations in 10 counties in northeast Indiana alone. Among all U.S. states, Indiana has the highest Japanese investment per capita, according to the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

The main purposes of the Consul-General’s office are to serve Japanese nationals, represent Japanese government and to provide travel services and information about Japan to non-Japanese residents.

The Consul-General also communicates with businesses in his 10-state jurisdiction and helps provide connections for companies looking to do business in Japan.

President of the Whitley County Economic Development Corp. Jon Myers said Ito wanted to meet some of the local people who are working for Japanese-owned companies while he was in northeast Indiana for the summit. Myers reached out to David Eizelman, president of Kyocera SGS Precision Tools, who was happy to oblige.

“We have a very proud crew here,” he said. “It means a lot to all of us. We’re excited to show what we do and what we can do and let people know that we’re here.”

Japanese-owned Kyocera purchased the company in 2016. The company entered the orthopedic cutting tool market in 2015 and manufactures orthopedic and dental instruments for a global customer base. Its capabilities include assisting with prototypes, providing first articles as well as complete production runs of bone drills, reamers, taps, files, rasps and other cutting devices.

Local and state officials joined the Consul-General on the visit, including Whitley County Council President Thor Hodges, Commissioner George Schrumpf, state Sen. Andy Zay, state Rep. Chris Judy and Fort Wayne City Councilman Russ Jehl.

The visit began with a brief presentation on the company followed by a tour of the facility.

After the tour, Ito said that he was impressed by the company’s advanced manufacturing capabilities and its growth since entering the orthopedic cutting tool market.

He said the visit gave him the opportunity to see how Japanese-owned companies are contributing to regional economies. It also gave him insight into how regional initiatives are influencing northeast Indiana’s investment climate, quality of life and labor force.

Trust between companies and local communities is key for continued strong relationships, Ito said. He added that building a culture of cooperation and collaboration between Japan and northeast Indiana is key for continuing a strong relationship and identifying opportunities for investment.