Why N.J. delegation trip to Israel may quickly produce economic impact

Teva Pharmaceuticals told Choose New Jersey officials it is looking to increase its headcount at its North American headquarters in Parsippany. Cross River Bank, an emerging fintech giant, said the same about its location in Fort Lee.

And then there’s Top Gum, which helps turn prescription medicine into gummy bears for those who have trouble swallowing pills. The current two-person operation in the state told Choose that it is looking to open a manufacturing facility here.

Where did all these discussions takes place? In Israel.

For those wondering why Choose New Jersey brought a delegation of 17 to Israel last week, these examples are just some of the answers, Choose CEO Jose Lozano said.

“Because there’s nothing like seeing someone face-to-face,” Lozano said. “It’s always the best way to show your commitment to a relationship. You cannot put a value on that.”

Or on timing.

New Jersey, which was the last state to send a delegation to Israel before the country and the world shut down in March 2020, was the first state to return this year. That was noticed, Lozano said.

“It definitely resonated with people and companies,” he said. “I had numerous executives tell me they are going to come to New Jersey just because we came to them.”

Those trips may be happening soon.

Lozano said as many as a dozen companies could make visits in the first quarter of 2022. Commerce trips usually don’t produce such quick results. But that’s in normal times, Lozano said.

“It usually takes a year or two after meeting a company to get them to come visit, but they’ve been pent up for almost 20 months,” he said. “I think you’re going to see quote-unquote ‘wins’ for New Jersey much faster.”

Lozano would not reveal specific companies that may be on the way, but he did say he expects one sector to see a jump in interest: food innovation.

“Israel is definitely stepping up its game on food tech and food innovation,” he said. “Because of climate change — it’s starting to rain less in Israel — as well as food insecurities worldwide, Israel is becoming much more forward-looking about food technology.”

New Jersey has a lot to offer in that area, Lozano said, starting with the Rutgers Food Innovation Center in both Piscataway and Bridgeton.

“They are looking for partners, and when they hear about what we are doing at the Food Innovation Center — how we are helping getting products developed and produced and to market — they are interested. There are not a lot of states that can offer all that.”

The trip, which took place last Monday through Wednesday, included visits to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The New Jersey business delegation included 17 members from organizations such as Choose New Jersey, the New Jersey-Israel CommissionNew Jersey Innovation InstituteNew Jersey City University and Rutgers University.

The delegation held key meetings with industry leaders and entrepreneurs — including representatives of logistics, life sciences, technology and financial services industries, among others — who are seeking growth opportunities in New Jersey.

Here are the reasons why Lozano felt the trip was a success:

  • Rutgers and Tel Aviv University signed a memorandum of understanding to form the Collaborative Research Grant program: The program will increase collaboration between the two research universities and will lead to TAU establish a presence at the Hub, the center of innovation, research and medical education the state is building in New Brunswick.
  • New Jersey City University and the Port of Ashdod signed a letter of intent: The LOI will help strengthen the economic relationship between New Jersey and Israel, as well as the Port of Ashdod and the NJCU community. The Port of Ashdod is Israel’s largest seaport in terms of cargo volume and is a major gateway for goods and cargo to and from Israel. NJCU and the Port of Ashdod seek to collaborate on projects that will advance innovation, economic development and international education.
  • SOSA meeting with Clalit Innovation and startup presentation: Choose New Jersey met with SOSA member companies, and participated in a discussion with Clalit Innovation and university partners to discuss innovation in New Jersey. SOSA is the leading global innovation platform connecting corporations, governments and cities to innovative technologies and ecosystems in the areas of cybersecurity, fintech and digital health among other areas. Clalit Innovation is the largest health care organization in Israel, and a global leader in implementing innovative strategies to tackle chronic illness.
  • Israel Export Institute food tech roundtable: Choose New Jersey and Rutgers University’s Office of Research met with Israeli food and food tech companies to discuss New Jersey’s innovation ecosystem and investment opportunities. The event was hosted by the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, the premier gateway for doing business with Israeli companies.
  • Teva Pharmaceuticals forum: Choose New Jersey met with Teva Pharmaceuticals to discuss New Jersey and the opportunities it offers international companies expanding to the U.S. Teva Pharmaceuticals, a leading global pharmaceutical company headquartered in Israel, has a global product portfolio of more than 1,800 molecules and a direct presence in 60 countries.
  • Cross River Bank roundtable: Choose New Jersey board member Cross River hosted a networking reception to further strengthen its longstanding partnership with the state of New Jersey and discuss opportunities for Israeli companies looking to expand in the U.S. Cross River, a fast-growing financial services leader, was founded in New Jersey in 2008. Since then, the company has grown to over 520 team members and plans to hire 100 more by the end of 2021.
  • Ben-Gurion University meeting and tour: The Choose New Jersey delegation received a tour of Advanced Technology Park and discussed partnership opportunities with BGU. In March, BGU and the New Jersey Institute of Technology announced a partnership that will create a world-class Institute for Future Technologies in New Jersey, offering dual degrees and new research opportunities.
  • EY business roundtable: Choose New Jersey participated in a roundtable with Choose New Jersey board member EY and Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway to discuss New Jersey’s life sciences and technology sectors. New Jersey’s innovation ecosystem is home to a high density of early-stage and established life sciences and technology companies that has attracted Israeli companies looking to be part of a thriving business community.

Lozano said the trip will pay dividends for years to come.

“New Jersey and Israel have a truly special relationship, and Choose New Jersey was proud to lead another delegation to Israel to further strengthen ties and forge new partnerships,” he said. “Our fourth consecutive trip to Israel was extremely successful, helping increase collaboration and advance research and innovation. New Jersey’s innovation economy is strong, and we look forward to building upon the progress that was made during this visit.”

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