THE TEL AVIV skyline.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A recent article in the business pages of The Jerusalem Post highlighted the fact that Connecticut has engaged the services of Chaim Oren of the Oren Group to represent the state’s export promotion and foreign direct investment interests in Israel. While the fact that Connecticut has made this commitment is newsworthy, readers need to know that this is simply the latest step in a 24-year history of US state-sponsored activity in Israel.
At that time Massachusetts was the trailblazer as the first US state to open a representative office here for trade and investment promotion under the auspices of the Massachusetts Office of Trade & Investment, a cabinet position of then governor William Weld with David Vita acting is the officer’s local director. For Massachusetts the investment here paid off handsomely.
A recent study by STAX, a Boston-based consulting group, showed that the economic impact of Israeli business activity in the state accounted for over $2 billion in direct additions to the state’s GDP, almost $8b.
in indirect additions resulting from companies interfacing with the Israeli firms, 6,000 direct jobs at the over 100 Israeli companies operating in the state and 21,000 indirect jobs at companies feeding into the activities of the Israelis there.
There then followed a steady stream of additional state offices, with California opening here 22 years ago, followed, at one time or another (in alphabetical order), by Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
State budget fluctuations directly affect the longevity of these operations and the frequency with which some of them have opened and closed. Massachusetts, for example, has had reps here twice, but not today. This is the second time that Connecticut has opened here and the Utah is also in its second foray here as a state office.
Today Israel has 13 contract state offices in place (i.e. Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Utah) with some additional local US government entities represented as well.
Those include Cincinnati’s (Ohio) Regional Economic Development Initiative, Dayton’s (Ohio) Regional Representative, Fairfax County (Virginia) Economic Development Authority, the St. Louis (Missouri) Israel Innovation Connection, CONNEX – America-Israel Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast (Atlanta) and the Michigan-Israel Business Bridge.
It is interesting to note as well that a number of these offices operate regionally, assisting companies in their client states to do business in the great swath of territory from Turkey east to the UAE and everything in between. With dual passports, email addresses that don’t reference Israel and VOIP phone lines with US access numbers, handling such work from Israel is eminently viable.
In addition to the US of course, other countries have joined the regional representation family. So regions of France and Spain, as well as Hong Kong, for example, have representatives here, and the Province of Ontario in Canada recently issued an RFP for an Israel trade and investment promotion representative as well.
Why the intense interest beyond what individual countries provide through their embassies and economic consuls? The answer is simple. Israel, with its reputation as a “start-up nation,” is an attractive and potentially lucrative source of business activity for these entities and they know that the best way to “sell” a particular location is to have someone here, on the ground, promoting this activity. That’s Marketing 101 and government entities worldwide know it.
So it’s great that Connecticut joins the ranks of the other 11 US states already operating here (some, as in the case of Pennsylvania and Delaware, for over 18 years) and we welcome them into the fold. As chairman of the American State Offices Association here we look forward to their participation with their colleagues and have no doubt that with an aggressive and professional approach to the Israeli business community Connecticut will see significant success from its efforts here.The author is a 31-year resident of Jerusalem, president of Atid EDI Ltd., a Jerusalem- based business development consulting firm which represents the interests of six US states in the region, and serves as the founding chairman of the American State Offices Association in Israel.