Two high-level American delegations reached out to Israeli business leaders
during visits to the country this week, as they explored cooperation in
renewable energy, aerospace, medicine and other technologies.
American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) brought to Israel two dozen heads
of business representative bodies from American and Canadian cities, including
Atlanta, Denver, San Jose and Ottawa.
A separate group of seven elected
officials from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Hawaii was also visiting the
Members of both delegations told The Jerusalem Post
that they see endless opportunities for business collaboration with Israel, and
spoke with admiration of the innovations they saw during their
“We’ve been charmed by the Israeli entrepreneurs,” ACCE senior
vice president Chris Mead said.
Pointing to a networking event hosted by
the organization’s local partner the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce
(FICC), Mead said the group was bombarded with financing and invention ideas,
which gave them a sense of the vitality of the business world in Israel. He said
one of the inventions that most impressed them was a machine that folds
The delegation’s visit comes at a time of declining US influence
in the Israeli economy. According to the FICC, the United States’ share in
Israeli trade dropped from 21 percent in 2006 to 19% in 2010, while the share of
Asian countries rose from 17% in 2006 to 21% in 2010.
However, Mead said
chamber executives were not worried by macroeconomic trends, and preferred to
focus on how they could use trade with Israel to the benefit of their own
communities. He said a decade of taking delegations overseas had taught the ACCE
that it can lead to new breakthroughs in business relations.
fairly efficient way of fostering business connections.
I don’t know if
there’s a perfect way, but because it’s human contact, there are not many
degrees of separation. It’s a matter of meeting one person here and then telling
one person in the United States about it,” Mead said.
One of the cities
keen on expanding its business partnership with Israel is Hartford, Connecticut.
Oz Griebel, CEO of the Metro Hartford Alliance, said the city already enjoyed a
strong relationship with Israeli aerospace and biotechnology companies, but
added that it was looking to expand this connection to new markets. In
particular, he said his chamber of commerce is searching for export
opportunities to Israel and for ways to attract reverse investment into Hartford
from Israeli companies.
The group of state officials, much like their
counterparts in the business delegation, also explored ways to expand the
relationship between Israel and their own communities. The state officials were
brought here by the American Jewish Committee educational institute Project
Given the 12-hour time difference, Hawaii House Finance
Committee chairman Marcus R. Oshiro traveled about as far from his home state as
he could in order to join the delegation. But he said the distance was not
necessarily a bad thing, and could be used as a catalyst for cooperation between
two states poor in natural resources but rich in intellectual talent and
“Hawaii is in a very important position in the Asia- Pacific.
We’re at the doorstep of Asia, where more than half the world’s population live,
where around half the world’s gross domestic product will be,” he
“Hawaii is a gateway to the region from the United States, so there
are a lot of opportunities for Hawaii and Israel to develop these economic,
research and education ties,” he said.
Oshiro said he would report back
to the Hawaiian legislature and research centers about what he saw in Israel. He
singled out a meeting the group had with Technion chemical engineer Prof. Hossam
Haick, who heads a research team working on ways to detect cancer through a
“That’s going to save lives across the globe. For a
small country like Israel to be able to do that, it shows people in Hawaii,
where there are 1.3 million people, that through using our intellectual talent,
we too can develop into a world-class exporter of ideas, products and services,”
Ohio representative Connie Pillich said her state is still
struggling to move into knowledge-based industries, and could learn from the way
Israeli start-ups operate.
“What I’m finding in Israel is they place a
high premium on developing and encouraging creativity and risk-taking in these
types of projects, which is something that we in Ohio really need to foster as
well,” she said.
Like Oshiro, Pillich was impressed by Prof. Haick’s
cancer research, and she said that there was potential for a new partnership
between the Technion and Cincinnati – which is home to a highly regarded medical
Pillich said she would also recommend expanding ties between the
Israel Air Force and 10,000 engineers serving at Wright Patterson Air Force Base
– the US Air Force’s largest base, located in her own representative district of
Montgomery. Pillich, herself an eight-year USAF veteran, said that although the
US has been at war for a long time, the Israel Air Force could bring to Ohio a
different perspective on the performance and shortcomings of American-made