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Japanese firm still growing after 35 years in Raleigh

Posted July 17

— A Japan-based maker of amino acids plans to invest $30 million to expand its Raleigh plant, creating about 20 jobs, officials said Monday.

Former Gov. Jim Hunt, who first recruited Ajinomoto North America Inc. to North Carolina 35 years ago, was on hand for the announcement at the company's facility off Poole Road.

"We want Ajinomoto to understand that we want you to continue to grow in North Carolina. Don't worry about all these other states. Put all your investments here in North Carolina," Hunt said.

Hunt still carries clout with the companies he recruited.

"It means a lot to us that he came back to help us celebrate," Ajinomoto North America Vice President Mike Lish said.

"I started touring the world to find more companies to come here. We needed jobs, and Japan was a great place to find them," Hunt said. "We've invested in education – that's been the key to it – and then going out and selling North Carolina and being a part of the world."

More than 200 Japanese companies now employ thousands of people in North Carolina.

"I like New York. I also like Chicago, where I live, but North Carolina has been my favorite state so much," Ajinomoto North America President Tatsuya Sato said.

Ajinomoto, which already employs 200 people at the plant, is expanding without any state or local incentives.

The company's amino acids are used in everything from pharmaceuticals to baby formula to sports drinks.

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