Editor’s Note: NAIOP CEO David Begelfer traveled with Governor Patrick’s Trade Mission to Israel; this is his update from day 4 of the trip.
The following are a few notes from my final day with the Trade Mission – there is truly too much going on to report it here, but I hope this gives some insights into the progress Governor Patrick and the delegation made in building relationships that could translate into real economic development opportunities for the Commonwealth.
1) Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor
After a very candid presentation of the political environment, the Minister (who oversees intelligence) answered a question about the effect of political uncertainty and previous conflicts on Israeli investments. According to him, there are no problems, with strong investments continuing due to strengths in innovation economy, $8 billion in trade surpluses, and a strengthening currency.
2) U.S. Consul General Daniel Rubinstein
West Bank GDP is 8%. (higher in Gaza, but off an extremely low base,) Foreign donations and foreign Palestinian investments total$900 million annually. Social media expanding in both Gaza and West Bank. 90% literacy throughout Palestinian Territories. Housing costs are growing very fast with an increase of more than 40% over last few years. However, there is less concern over “bubble” due to underwriting with 35% down and limitations on multiple home ownership. Most young families require parental assistance.
3) Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat
Coming from the private sector as a successful founder & CEO of a computer software company and a venture capital firm, he retired 8 years ago at age 40. In 2008 he was elected mayor – a truly visionary and dynamic leader. He enlisted Michael Porter to help strategize based on Jerusalem being the best location, best known brand. Leveraging Jerusalem’s competitive advantages, Mayor Barkat is developing the business cluster and tourism together. His goal is 10 million tourists (3 now,) health & sciences cluster expansion, and looking to the future with patient-centric vs. hospital-centric care.
4) President Shimon Peres
At 87 years old, and personally representing the whole history of the State of Israel, President Peres spoke and answered questions on his view of the past, present, and future here and relations with the U.S. Answering a question about what contributed to the phenomenal growth of the economy from the start, he said it began in earnest with defense. Without planes, Israel was forced to build their own, requiring research, precision manufacturing, and the need to produce a superior product in order to survive.
5) Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon
Governor Patrick and the Minister signed a Memorandum of Understanding for collaboration in research and development between the Commonwealth’s and Israeli companies. The Minister’s office and the office of Chief Scientist will identify existing programs that can be scaled up to an international level. There is hope that the Kinesset will pass legislation allowing the Chief Scientist to invest in a foreign program or academic program, which could benefit Massachusetts schools and businesses.
You can hear more about these opportunities at NAIOP’s upcoming program, The Boston-Israel Connection, featuring fellow trip participants David Abromowitz and Thomas O’Brien, as well as participants from the 2010 City to City trip to Haifa, Thomas Palmer and Robert Buckley. Learn more about that program, held Tuesday, March 29th, at the offices of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
A few other photos from the trip: