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KOBE (Kyodo) The port city of Kobe still hasn’t recovered from the devastation caused a decade ago by the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

“The volume of cargo handled at the port has yet to return to the prequake level, and citizens’ incomes have continued to decrease,” said Takashi Miki, an official of the planning and adjustment bureau with the Kobe Municipal Government.

To give the local economy a boost, a plan has emerged to create a medical industry zone, designated by the central government in spring 2003 as a special zone for structural reform, or one where regulations are to be eased.

Taking advantage of the concentration in the city of major pharmaceutical companies and research institutions, the municipal government aims to create Asia’s largest medical industry base to help cope with an aging society.

A number of biotechnology-related venture companies are already in business on Kobe’s man-made Southern Port Island.

“It’s easy to operate there because of understanding from the administration,” a venture business manager said. The municipal government’s target is to have more than 100 companies located there within 20 years, creating jobs for more than 40,000 people in the area, with annual production output totaling around 850 billion yen.

The government has already succeeded in attracting 69 companies and creating jobs for 1,200 people.

“Kobe’s effort appears to be very good. The Kansai (region’s) economic community has to cooperate with it,” said Satoshi Iue, chairman of Sanyo Electric Co., which is based in Moriguchi, Osaka Prefecture.

Sanyo is among a dwindling number of major companies deciding to keep their head offices in the Kansai region, which centers on Osaka.

Osaka, once called Japan’s commercial capital, has produced numerous famous companies, but many have moved their head offices to Tokyo since the 1980s.

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