A few weeks into his new role as director general of the new Arizona-Israel Trade & Investment Office, Arizona’s first trade office outside of Mexico, David Ya’ari is in Phoenix this week and spoke to Jewish News about the collaboration between the Startup Nation and the Startup State.
Ya’ari, an entrepreneur and business leader with an extensive background in technology and finance, was selected by the Arizona Commerce Authority, which governs the office.
One of the first highlights came on Nov. 19, at the office’s opening reception, Ya’ari said. A trade delegation of members of the Arizona Legislature and Arizona business leaders were among more than 150 people who attended. The delegation included State Rep. Tony Rivero (R-Peoria), chairman of the House State and International Affairs committee; Susan Marie, ACA executive vice president for strategy; and Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The group’s weeklong visit included meetings with several Israeli companies and Israeli officials, including former defense minister Moshe Yaalon.
Although he has visited Arizona several times in the past, this week was Ya’ari’s first visit representing the new trade office, which is located in Tel Aviv’s business district. During his visit, his itinerary included getting to know the team at the ACA, as well as meeting with local business leaders and representatives from the universities and from many of the Israeli-owned companies already here.
“It is a pleasure to welcome the new director,” said Leib Bolel, president and CEO of the Arizona Israel Technology Alliance, who has worked closely with the ACA over the years in building the relationship between the business communities in Arizona and Israel. “We look forward to continuing the mission of strengthening commerce and investment between the two states for the years to come.”
Currently there are more than 20 Israeli-owned companies that are operating in Arizona in aerospace and defense, business and financial services, and technology and innovation.
In 2018, imports and exports between Arizona and Israel totaled more than $460 million, twice the volume since 2010, according to the office of the governor. Ya’ari noted that it’s very reasonable to expect that amount to grow to $1 billion over the next decade.
Ya’ari says that putting Arizona on the map for Israeli businesses is a priority for him. When a venture capitalist is looking to fund a tech company or when an Israeli company wants to expand to the American market, “I want them to think of Arizona.”
“This would never have happened without the leadership of the governor,” Ya’ari said, who he credits for making Arizona a great environment for companies to invest their research and development dollars and try out new prototypes. “There’s lots of innovation and lots of partnerships to develop,” Ya’ari said. “I’m excited that the governor has made [the trade office] a priority.”
Some of the similarities between Israel and Arizona that make it a good match are developments in sectors such as agritech and water tech, Ya’ari said, as they provide an opportunity to share knowledge and create partnerships. Additionally, they have a similar climate, which is another attractive factor.
One goal he would like to accomplish over the next year is a delegation of Israeli business owners coming to Arizona to learn about all the benefits the state has to offer.
The trade office was funded in the fiscal year 2020 budget approved by the Arizona State Legislature and creates a platform for businesses in Arizona and Israel to increase international trade and foreign direct investment opportunities.
Ya’ari encourages Israeli businesses who want to expand to Arizona and Arizona businesses looking into Israel to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I want people to know that we’re accessible and that we want to engage.” JN