Four leaders of local industry will be honored next week for their contributions to Israeli business at the Manufacturers Association of Israel's annual awards ceremony at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv. Nochi Dankner of IDB, Abraham Kleiner of Agan Chemical Manufacturers, Gamatronic's Josef Goren and Shalom Seidler of Wissotsky Tea are the recipients of this year's awards, which will be presented at the January 31 event to be opened by Vice Premier Shimon Peres. Minister of Industry Trade & Labor Eli Yishai also will be in attendance, as will other members of Knesset, Manufacturers Association president Sharaga Brosh and an array of captains of industry. This year marks the 31st year of the awards, during which time over 150 prizes have been handed out. Employee relations and increases in productivity levels were among a broad range of criteria assessed by a panel of judges headed by Dov Lotman. Last year's winners were Miki Federman of Elbit Technologies, Ofir Gilboa of Polgat Textiles, and Yosef Barnea of Mifalei Hamtzan V'Aragon.
Gamatronic's founder and general manager Josef Goren is quick to assert that his work "is not all about the profits."
Shares in his firm, one of Israel's largest power electronics companies, have increased more than three-fold over the last four years, but Goren is more interested in talking about his relationship with his employees.
"Of course I am glad when we increase profits and turnover, but more important is the welfare of our 190 workers," says Goren forcefully. He also points to the contribution his company makes to Israel's economy, when asked to highlight the achievements of which he is most proud.
Although his company has been awarded many prizes during its 37-year history, Goren believes that he merited this year's award because the committee recognized that he is not just motivated by the bottom line.
"There are far more successful businessmen than me out there," Goren pointed out. "However, I believe that I was awarded the prize because they [the committee] know that I care for my employees, as well as for the financial health of the company."
Nochi Dankner, controlling shareholder and chairman of IDB Holding Corporation is being honored for his vast contribution to Israeli industry over an illustrious career, which led to him last year being declared Israel's most powerful businessman, according to Business Data Israel's (BDI) Index.
The BDI Index calculated that he owns 15.1% of the revenues of the country's leading 500 companies. His Discount Investment Corporation, of which he is also chairman, bought Cellcom Israel in 2003, and is expected to post a profit of around $135 million when it sells its stake.
This continues his trend of buying and selling assets of various Israeli and overseas companies, which he embarked upon ever since Discount Investment Corp. took over its parent company IDB Holding Corp.
Dankner, who is 52 years old and married with three children, did not wish to be interviewed regarding the Manufacturers' award.
"When things have to happen, they have to happen," says Shalom Seidler, chairman of Wissotzky Tea, says of the timing of the Manufacturers' award, quoting an old Yiddish phrase he grew up hearing. "I imagine that the state-of-the-art factory we built last year in the Galil had an influence on the judges," he continues, "but also the way that we have revolutionized tea's image in Israel over the last 14 years."
He points to the way that the company has rebranded its products since he took the helm, suggesting that once tea's profile was raised in Israel, higher consumption levels followed. "Fifteen years ago tea was seen as something only given to the sick or the elderly," he says. "Successful introduction of different varieties of tea [fruit flavored, etc.] has changed the way the consumer views the product."
He is quick to point out that the company is steeped in history, tracing its roots back to pre-war Russia and Poland. His family has been instrumental in the company ever since its formation, and he singles out his mother's contribution as essential in driving Wissotzky forward.
He is continually on the look out for new angles for the company and says Jerusalem is a potential target for the company's next tea rooms following the success of the Tel Aviv branch.
Abraham Kleiner, managing director of Agan Chemical Manufacturers, is sanguine about the reasons behind his prestigious award.
"There is no single achievement that I can point to" he says, "rather, it is testament to all I have done during my eight years with the company."
He speaks highly of the firm's 600 employees, whom he calls "very dedicated and professional," and says it is their hard work that has enabled him to be in a position to receive the prize.
"I, as one person, am not enough [to make the company so successful]," says Kleiner. "It is due to the employees' efforts, whereas I am just the one responsible for them."
He points to the company's efforts to combat pollution as one of his proudest achievements during his career. "We spent $10 million on buying a thermal oxidizer [used to control volatile compounds] - the first one in Israel," he states.
"No one told us we had to do it, but we are committed to protecting the environment at Agan."
Looking to the future, Kleiner sees an investment of "a further $50m." into ecological projects by the company.