By: Fred Morgan
Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to accompany a group of business leaders from across the United States to Israel. While most Americans visit Israel to tour the Holy Land’s historic and religious sites, the primary purpose of our trip was to learn about the vibrant economy of Israel and to explore strengthening the commercial ties between our two countries. Historically, commercial relationships and announcements between Israel and the United States have focused on the defense industry. However, Israel has developed a worldwide reputation as an innovative nation of start-up companies strongly supported by government policies and their culture. As a nation, Israel is less than 70 years old with a population of only 8.5 million people and has extremely limited natural resources. However, their per capita income is more than $37,000 per year, comparable or exceeding most of the industrialized nations of the world and far surpassing their neighboring countries.
Our trip focused on three main areas: water conservation, cyber security and economic development. The common theme in each of these areas was the strategic need to encourage development to protect their country. Protection of Israel’s businesses from cyber-attacks is considered a fundamental interest of government to ensure their economic viability as an independent nation. The private sector in Israel appears much more sensitive than the private sector in the United States to the increasing danger of cyber-attacks which could cripple business and seriously damage their economy.
Conservation of extremely limited water resources is imperative to maintaining self-sufficiency in food production and feeding a growing population. Israel recycles 85% of its sewage water (Spain is the next closest at 19%) and is a leader in drip irrigation.
Economic development is also considered a national priority for maintaining their independence as a nation. Unlike the United States, collaboration, partnership and coordination between government and the private sector is more widely accepted and even encouraged in Israel. Israeli start-up companies in the fields of science, medicine, space and technology have attracted the attention of multi-national companies from across the globe.
Israel is a very interesting country and nothing short of an economic miracle. Currently, there are a handful of Oklahoma companies involved in trade with Israel. Israeli industry, while very small compared to the U.S., is eager to increase economic trade with the United States to gain access to our markets. Opportunities for mutually beneficial commercial ties with the United States abound. Innovative new products developed in Israel hold the potential to be manufactured and sold in the much larger U.S. market, creating American jobs, innovative new products and capital investment in our country. One example is Teva Pharmaceuticals, an Israeli company and the largest manufacturer of generic pharmaceutical drugs in the world. Teva has more than 30 plants in the United States and employs thousands of people while providing lower cost drugs to the U.S. market. More importantly, they are exploring innovative new medical advances and technology to improve health outcomes around the world.
The trip was an eye-opening experience that changed my perception of our relationship with Israel. There are many lessons U.S. businesses and government can learn from their Israeli counterparts. If you have the opportunity to visit or do business with Israel, I encourage you to do so. You won’t be disappointed.