Beit Shemesh angles to become country's next Silicon Valley

The Jerusalem Post has learned that a group of Beit Shemesh-based entrepreneurs are gaining traction in their push to establish a hi-tech incubator in their sleepy town.

By MATTHEW KRIEGER
November 19, 2007 09:52
2 minute read.
Beit Shemesh angles to become country's next Silicon Valley

yoqneam park 224.88. (photo credit: www.high-tech-park.com)

 
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Despite facing obstacles from city leaders, The Jerusalem Post has learned that a group of Beit Shemesh-based hi-tech entrepreneurs are gaining traction in their push to establish a hi-tech incubator in their sleepy commuter town. "Our success in establishing this incubator has more to do with the Jewish Agency's Partnership 2000 program which twinned Beit Shemesh with Washington, D.C., than it does with Beit Shemesh itself," Zvi Wolicki, chairman of the Beit Shemesh/Shimshon Hi-Tech Forum, told the Post on Sunday. "Without our group and the effort that we put in, there would be no push forward and this project would not be going anywhere." The Beit Shemesh Hi-Tech Forum was founded in 1999 with the goals of attracting companies to the area in and around Beit Shemesh, to aid and assist young start-ups and improve the overall hi-tech atmosphere in the Beit Shemesh region. "There is a lot of innovation and a lot of creativity that is coming out of our city," Wolicki said. "Beit Shemesh has a wealth of talented local citizens and Western olim and what we are looking to do is to capitalize on this and we think that the establishment of an incubator will be a big step for the area." In their push to create the incubator, Wolicki and his hi-tech forum team have met with a highly unlikely foe: the Beit Shemesh Municipality. "Right now, the mayor is trying to take credit for this project, but we are not getting any assistance from the city whatsoever," Wolicki said. "While we don't expect city officials to be able to build and guide such a program, they could be doing things to encourage more businesses to move to the area such as lowering the arnona w(municipal property tax) that businesses have to pay. They could create an atmosphere that is more conducive for businesses, but they have not done this. " According to Wolicki, Partnership 2000, an innovative program established by the Jewish Agency, the United Jewish Communities and Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal that matches Israeli and international cities, can be credited with aiding the hi-tech forum's incubator aspirations. "This program made it possible for us to connect with certain D.C.-based businessmen and it looks like there is a strong possibility that the program's economic development sub-committee is going to sponsor at least $1 million towards the incubator." Partnership 2000 was created in 1994 to provide the opportunity for communities to connect and interpersonal relationships to flourish. The principal areas of involvement within the individual partnership regions are effecting change in education and fostering economic development. To date, over 550 communities around the world have been connected through P2K. Wolicki is currently preparing an executive summary to present to prospective incubator investors and hopes to raise at least $10m. in capital to get the project off the ground.

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