The Israel Manufacturers Association predicted stronger growth in the coming year after industry growth of just 4 percent in 2005. Revenue for the year totalled NIS 278 billion. "We had a very good year in industry in 2005, and 2006 promises to be even better," said Shraga Brosch, president of the IMA at an end-of-year press briefing in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. The figures however, represented a slowdown in the rate of industrial growth from 2004 when revenues jumped 7% over the previous year. Of the total sales in 2005, industrial exports rose 4.5% to $25b., which significantly slower than the 17.6% growth achieved in 2004. "The slow down, particularly in exports, was influenced by the general reduction in global trade, budgetary cuts and rising production costs, due mainly to the rise in oil prices and wages," Brosch said. Sales to the local market grew 4% in 2005 compared to a stagnant performance in 2004. This year saw a 1.8% increase in the industrial work force with 6,000 new jobs created, 60% of which were in hi-tech. Industry also saw a 2.5% rise in the average wage to NIS 9,925 per month. This is three times the average wage in the economy, the IMA noted. In looking ahead to next year, the IMA forecast that industry would grow by 5.5% from this year, while exports would rise 6.5% to $28b. - in line with the expected rise in global trade. Local sales are expected to increase by a further 4.5%. The growth figures will be boosted by the establishment of approximately 7,600 new businesses which are expected to spur a 2.2% rise in the sector's employment figures in 2006. Brosch outlined three projects involving the IMA, which he sees as key to accelerating future growth. In partnership with the Ministries of Finance and Industry, Trade and Labor, the IMA will establish a new industrial park in the Negev aimed at "bringing factories from the center of the country to the periphery." Some 300 dunam of land has been set aside for the project which, upon completion [in approximately 10 years], is expected to house 4,000 workers in industry and a further 4,000 in service related jobs. Brosch said five factories have already committed to moving to the new park. The IMA also will launch next week its three-month long "Israelis buy Israeli" marketing and media campaign to encourage the public to buy Israeli products. In addition, the IMA will be running technical training courses for high school students and graduates to encourage their absorption into industry. MA honors manufacturers The Israel Manufacturers Association honored three of its most accomplished industrialists at the 30th annual IMA Award ceremony in Tel Aviv Wednesday evening. The Zvi Zur prize was given to Michael Federman, Chairman of defense contractor Elbit Systems, for representing Israel's standing as a world power through his industrial vision in hi-tech. The IMA presented the Yosef Segol prize to Ofer Gilboa, general manager of Polgat Textiles for his strategic achievement in bringing Bagir Ltd. and Polgat Textiles out of crises. The two groups merged this year. Finally, Yosef Barnea, an executive member of industrial gas supplier Oxygen and Argon Works Ltd., received the Hilda and Dr. Richard Strauss Award for promoting industry in Israel. The awards were presented by President Moshe Katsav.