Making Change: Israeli Company Reps Tour Akron Hospitals

You know the job of running an Ohio city has changed when you meet Susan Kaminski, who works for Columbus.

What's your title?

Susan Kaminski: I'm the Director of Global Initiatives for the city of Columbus.

Since when do cities have something like that?

Susan Kaminski: Since the world became flat. (laughs)

Kaminski's counterparts from Cleveland, Akron, and several suburbs gathered at a hotel in Independence to meet with the company representatives from Israel. Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher, who's also Ohio's Development Director, has been trying to lure a new Rolls Royce plant to Ohio. But he showed up talk to Israeli CEO's, half of whom had fewer than three dozen employees.

Lee Fisher: Other companies may choose other states. And perhaps they should. But if you're in the medical IT field, this is the state you need to be.

Israeli companies can qualify for Ohio's Third Frontier grant money. Fisher told the Israelis the state will be a partner in commercializing their product.

Lee Fisher: We don't have a philosophy in Ohio of landlord-tenant. The state being the landlord; the business being the tenant. We believe this needs to be a risk sharing business collaboration.

Israel is no longer a struggling agricultural country with hyper-inflation. David Furst of the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute told the Americans that Israel is number one in the world for households with computers and cell phones.

David Furst: The little kid just born will have a phone because he has to manage his stockbroker in Hong Kong.

Israel now puts a greater share of its GDP into research and development than any country. Furst says Israel and the U.S. are unusual in that they promote collaboration between industry and academia.

David Furst: The last 20 years we have found a way to communicate between the two branches; where the scientist wants to research what he likes and the industry wants him to research what they need.

In fact, on Thursday the Israel CEO's will visit the University of Akron and Kent State University to see what they have to offer. The Israeli Consul for Economic Affairs, Noa Asher, says the Israeli medical companies are entering the American market in hopes of finding both customers and partners. She says they were glad to hear that one-fifth of all clinical trials in the U.S. occur in Ohio.

Noa Asher: Israelis, most of the Israeli companies come to U.S. come either to the East Coast or the West Coast and forget about the Midwest. And because of that the Midwest has a vast potential for growing and developing and Israeli companies should look at that for sure.

One company with offices in Boston and New York is Contec Vision, which specializes in electronic medical records. Its CEO is Nitzan Sneh.

Nitzan Sneh: We know about this area; we know it's an important one and it's not that far from the east coast. We thought it was maybe a very good area for us to meet candidates and partners and maybe develop our third entry point in the United States.

Yossi Mazel's company Cognifit makes software for older adults to exercise their cognitive skills. Cognifit doesn't have an office in the U.S.

Yossi Mazel: Not yet, we're contemplating this. And I can say that yesterday Cleveland became an option. Or Northeast Ohio. I think Cleveland doesn't have the high awareness as other places have but after seeing presentations yesterday and today, you know...

Now, he says, Cleveland is on the map.

Several Israelis say the hard work of local Jews is helping them get established in the U.S. Ran Goshen of DbMotion, a company based outside Tel Aviv, says it helps.

Ran Goshen: It does. It's not a secret. There was an initiative that was at least in part motivated by the will of American Jews to help Israeli industry.

The organizers of this conference say they are planning another one, next time with companies from India.

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