Connecticut Looks to Boost Partnerships with Israeli Tech Companies

Many Israeli companies are finding success in patents and new technology, but need expansive markets.

by Stephen Singer, The Hartford Courant / May 12, 2016
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy Dannel Malloy

(TNS) -- Connecticut and Israeli companies are stepping up their courtship.

State economic development officials seeking to boost business and economic growth gathered Wednesday with Israeli firms looking for access to large and lucrative Northeast markets.

The state even used the showcase at the Infinity Music Hall and Bistro in Hartford to pitch one of its greatest assets: the University of Connecticut basketball franchise.

Daniel Weiner, vice president for global affairs at UConn, told about 100 people gathered at what one participant called a "modified trade show" that UConn has numerous relationships with Israeli universities for projects such as archaeology, marine sciences and philosophy.

"And we continue to do basketball diplomacy," he said, referring to Israeli interest in UConn's basketball program.

The event, organized by MetroHartford Alliance, the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and Connecticut Economic Resource Center, was intended to promote collaboration between state economic development efforts and Israeli bioscience, pharmaceutical, defense and other startup businesses.

Many Israeli companies are finding success in patents and new technology, but need expansive markets not available in the Mideast.

Catherine Smith, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said Israel has "run out of space" and the U.S. "looks like a very good place to land."

Efforts to promote economic development have long focused on drumming up overseas business for Connecticut-based aerospace and other companies, Smith said. Economic development officials recently began taking an opposite tack, looking to promote the state to businesses seeking to expand beyond their borders, she said.

Among its selling points, Connecticut is pitching its proximity to Northeast markets without the costs associated with big cities nearby. "New York and Boston are on both sides of Connecticut," Weiner said.

Lior Hessel, director of GrowPonics, an Israeli- and British-based company that designs and builds automated, computerized and controlled greenhouse factories, said his company began operating a lettuce-growing business in Guilford last year because of the town's access to Connecticut's interstate highways and the Northeast.

"We're practically in the backyard of Boston and New York," he said.

Ofer Sadka, chief executive officer of SolView, which pinpoints prospects for solar energy installation, said his Israeli-based company expects to open a sales office in Hartford this summer. He said the state offered generous economic development assistance and cited Connecticut's push for solar energy.

"It's a good fit," he said.

©2016 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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