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How companies with Iowa, Russia ties are reacting to Ukraine invasion

Gun News


According to researchers at the Yale Chief Executives Leadership Institute, more than 350 major U.S. companies have divested, closed or suspended Russian operations since the Ukraine invasion. The group has identified 43 continuing to do business there; others are scaling back or delaying activity.

Here are actions companies with major operations in Iowa have taken.

Analysis: Why some Iowa companies are leaving Russia, why some are staying

Known as the world’s largest seller of gunsmithing tools and accessories, the Grinnell-based wholesale and retail seller of firearms previously operated a Russian-language website aimed at the Russian market.

The site, Brownells-Russia.com, operated until at least late 2019, according to the Internet Archive. 

Officials said the company no longer sells into the Russian market.

“We do not do business there,” said spokesman Ryan Repp.

Workers fulfill online and mail orders in a 200,000-square-foot warehouse at Brownells in Grinnel.

The company’s ambitions for expanding business in Russia featured heavily in a 2019 congressional investigation into the connections between the National Rifle Association and Russian agent Maria Butina, who accompanied company CEO Pete Brownell on a 2015 NRA trip to Moscow. Butina, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to failing to register as a Russian agent, was deported from the U.S. the following year.

Amid the controversy about the trip, Brownell stepped down from his NRA post.

As of Friday, Brownells was advertising company-branded hunting trips to eight locations in Russia, costing as much as $29,500.

An April 20 trip to hunt brown bears on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula was discounted to $11,000 per person from $17,900. 

More: Some Iowa-tied companies leaving Russian market; others staying despite Ukraine invasion

Formerly known as Rockwell Collins, this Cedar Rapids-based subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies has a history of dealings with the Russian aerospace industry.

A company spokesman said Collins and Raytheon’s other subsidiaries have “suspended all sales and support services to Russia’s civil aviation industry.”

While the major U.S. defense contractor did not deal with the Russian military, Collins has sold avionics and pilot control systems for civilian aircraft made by United Aviation , a state-owned company that also builds fighters, bombers and other aircraft for the Russian military. 

Documents filed in March with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission say Raytheon had 358 employees in Russia but does not break them down by business. 

Civilian aircraft are often considered “dual-use” products that can be used for military purposes.

Wheels drop down from above as workers assemble a tractor at John Deere's Waterloo assembly plant.

The Quad Cities-based manufacturer of iconic green John Deere tractors announced March 9 that it had ceased all shipments to Russia and its ally Belarus. Company officials said in a written statement online that “the safety, welfare, and well-being of our employees in the region remains our top priority, and we continue to support and maintain close communication with our affected teams, providing necessary resources when possible.”

More: John Deere to sell machine-servicing software to farmers amid right to repair complaints

Spokeswoman Jennifer Hartmann declined to comment on how the announcement affects the company’s two plants in Russia — one in Moscow’s Domedovo district and the other in the southwest Russia city of Orenburg. The Moscow facility is primarily the company’s regional distribution center for the states of the former Soviet Union.

The Orenburg plant makes seeding and tillage equipment, according to the company’s website. It was built with substantial government subsidies, according to news accounts.

Based in Moline, Illinois, Deere has factories and major facilities across Iowa, including its largest manufacturing facility, the Waterloo Works. 

Officials of the Des Moines-based manufacturer of food and animal feed additives said they would continue operating in Russia based on the belief that food is a “basic human right.”

They said Kemin’s actions are in line with the principle of maintaining food supplies during a time of war and comply with U.S. and international law.

“As a family-owned and operated company, Kemin Industries and the Nelson family believe the war in Ukraine is an atrocity and extends the deepest sympathy with heavy hearts to everyone whose lives have been deeply impacted and forever changed by this senseless and tragic crisis,” spokeswoman Lauren Burt said in an email.

Since 2017, the company has had manufacturing and lab facilities in the western Russia city of Lipetsk, focused on producing nutritional additives for animal feed for the Russian market.

The company’s website describes the Lipetsk plant as “one of the most sophisticated plants in the global Kemin portfolio.”

As a private company, Kemin does not disclose the volume of its business in Russia.

Principal Financial Group headquarters in downtown Des Moines.

Des Moines’ financial giant manages more than $700 billion in global investments, some of which have, in the past, included both Russian and Ukrainian stocks and bonds.

However, the conflict is likely to have  “minimal” effect on the company’s current fund holdings, said spokesman Shawn Finlen. 

Principal has no locations or employees in either country, and is working with U.S. and allied governments to ensure it is fully in compliance with financial sanctions against Russia and senior Russian figures.

More: Principal Financial Group unloads some retirement, life insurance businesses

“First and foremost, we’re deeply concerned about the humanitarian impact of the conflict in Ukraine and the safety and well-being of the citizens impacted. Principal Foundation has allocated $1 million to support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine,” Finlen said in an email.

Russian farmer Roman Zimin poses with a Pioneer seed sign in an undated promotional photo released by  Corteva AgriScience.

Pioneer, the Johnston-based seed subsidiary of Corteva AgriSciences, has a long history of business with Russia. While the company’s financial statements do not break down its sales in Russia, Pioneer has been a presence there since Iowa wholesaler Bob Garst traveled in 1955 to what was then the Soviet Union to sell Pioneer Hi-Bred seed corn. Then-Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited Garst’s Coon Rapids farm during a U.S. trip in 1959.

More: From the archives: Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visits Iowa in 1959

Corteva officials told the Delaware Business Times they were suspending “new commercial sales activities” in Russia and ally Belarus.

Pioneer is also well known for its ties to Ukraine, which officials said remains a major focus.

“As we approach the final weeks of the 2022 growing season, we are continuing to work to ensure our customers in Ukraine have all the products they need for a successful harvest and to prevent disruption to the food supply chain,” said Pioneer spokeswoman Kasey Anderson.

The company has committed financial aid and logistical support to relief efforts in Ukraine, Anderson said.

“Our main priority remains ensuring the safety of our colleagues, their families, and our customers in Ukraine while also seeking to prevent a food crisis that could have long-lasting impacts across the region and beyond,” she said.

The sign on the Quaker Oats factory is a Cedar Rapids landmark.

A subsidiary of Harrison, New York-based PepsiCo, Quaker Oats operates a cereal plant in Cedar Rapids that helped earn that town the derisive nickname “the City of Five Smells.” 

PepsiCo officials announced March 8 that it would halt beverage sales, advertising and marketing in Russia. The company, however, said it would continue to sell food and other essential products. It markets Quaker Oats under the Chudo brand in Russia.

“That means we have a responsibility to continue to offer our other products in Russia, including daily essentials such as milk and other dairy offerings, baby formula and baby food. By continuing to operate, we will also continue to support the livelihoods of our 20,000 Russian associates and the 40,000 Russian agricultural workers in our supply chain as they face significant challenges and uncertainty ahead,”  CEO Ramon Laguarta wrote in a publicly released email to employees

Des Moines is home to the North American tire headquarters of West Chicago, Illinois-based Titan International, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of tires for tractors, construction equipment, ATVs and other off-road uses. The company also makes wheels and undercarriage components.

According to Titan financial reports, about 5% of Titan’s $1.8 billion in 2021 tire sales were in Russia, where it owns a majority stake in formerly state-owned tiremaker Voltyre-Prom, a manufacturer of Titan-, Goodyear- and Voltyre-branded products.

Titan said it took operational control of the plant in 2013 and acquired a majority stake in 2019. However, close to 36% of the plant belongs to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a government-controlled enterprise that has been the target of recent U.S. and international sanctions.

In February, the company spent close to $24 million buying back Titan International shares the Russian Direct Investment Fund had acquired in connection with Titan’s investments in Voltyre. That transaction was completed before sanctions that could have prevented it took effect, records show.

The company plans no changes to its Russian operations, according to CEO Paul Reitz.

“At this moment we are in compliance with all current sanctions relating to the Ukrainian situation. There is no material impact to our Russian operation or really our other Titan facilities at this time and we will continue to move forward from there,” Reitz said in a March 3 call with investment analysts.

In addition to sales in Russia, company officials told analysts they continue to purchase latex rubber from Russian suppliers for use at their factories in other countries.

Cedar Rapids-based financial firm Transamerica Corp. is involved in life insurance, retirement investments and employee benefits.

Its parent company, Dutch life insurance, pensions and asset manager Aegon Group N.V., announced March 8 that it would no longer make investments in Russia or Belarus. At the time of the announcement, Aegon said its companies had a total of $27 million in investments in Russia out of hundreds of billions of dollars under management.

More: Iowa insurance giant TransAmerica faces lawsuit over National Rifle Association-marketed cancer policy

“These decisions are in line with the response of the international business community and the international sanctions imposed on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.  Transamerica stands with Aegon’s policy in excluding investments in Russia or Belarus-based companies from its general accounts,” Transamerica spokeswoman Julie Quinlan said.

Vermeer Corporation in Pella has housed its own Global Pavilion for employee continuing education for around 25 years. The majority of Vermeer's formal training events occur at the Pella facility.

Pella-based manufacturer Vermeer Corp. is famous for its balers, but makes everything from brush chippers to pipeline drills. 

As a privately held company, Vermeer does not disclose the size of its businesses in Russia and Ukraine. However, the company has done business in the region since at least the 1990s.

The company announced March 25 that it had “paused” all shipments of machines and parts “to Russia or Belarus, or customers associated with activities in Russia or Belarus.”

More: Vermeer receives Iowa tax credits for Pella warehouse project that will add 100 workers

Vermeer has no manufacturing facilities in Russia.

“As an organization that values people above all, we are deeply concerned for the citizens of both countries suffering from the invasion in Ukraine and the suffering the people of Russia will face due to these financial sanctions. Our teams, especially at our European regional offices, are focused on ways to support refugees impacted by these events,” said company spokeswoman Ashlee Stevenson.

Daniel Lathrop is a staff writer on the Register’s investigative team. Reach him at (319) 244-8873 or dlathrop@dmreg.com. Follow him at @lathropd on Twitter and at facebook.com/IowaGadfly.





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