Despite increasing terrorism at home, Israeli trade mission heading to Florida
By Sherri C. Ranta
Despite political turmoil and months of violence in their country, representatives from Israel's aviation, aerospace and security-related industries are expected to be in Miami next month to boost trade opportunities.
Representatives from 11 Israeli companies are expected to visit Miami and Orlando June 24-26, said Julie Balzano, manager of special projects for Enterprise Florida, the state's trade development agency and co-organizer of the trip with the Consulate General of Israel for Florida and Puerto Rico.
The venture was originally planned two years ago, Ms. Balzano said, but as violence intensified in Israel, the trip was postponed and changed to an in-bound trade mission.
Plans for the Israeli group, Ms. Balzano said, include visits to Lockheed Martin in Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.
"Each company comes in with a different set of objectives," she said. "Some come for joint representation, others for representation agreements or direct-purchase agreements. Some are simply coming in to do market research and establish new business contacts. The level of success for each company depends on individual objectives."
Interest in trade with Florida among business people in Israel is still high, said Manny Mencia, senior vice president for international business development with Enterprise Florida.
"Our office in Tel Aviv remains very busy," he said. "Two-way trade with Israel is down 4%, but by and large, considering the situation, business is continuing as usual. I am amazed at the resiliency of the Israeli business community."
Israel is Florida's 45th largest trade partner, generating more than $200 million in exports and imports in 2001 through US Customs districts in Miami and Tampa, Enterprise Florida officials said. Imports and exports were down, figures show, 12.7% from 1999 to 2000.
Top imports to Florida from Israel in '99-'01 were electrical machinery, precious stones & metals, machinery, organic chemicals, medical instruments and aircraft & space craft-related items.
Officials at Enterprise Florida and the Consulate General for Israel say they are sensitive to some American companies' decisions to postpone travel to Israel at this time. The US State Department last month also warned residents against traveling to Israel.
"The inbound missions provide contact with other businesses in countries that are inaccessible," Ms. Balzano said. "Given the violence, it is unlikely Florida companies will travel there. But we hate to see those business opportunities go unmet because of circumstances beyond their control."
The sustained violence in Israel is affecting the economy there, said Nir Salomon, director of economic affairs for the consulate. However, the country's credit has not been affected, he said.
"We can understand when US or other companies say this is not the time to go to Israel. But this is definitely the time to continue or start to do business with Israel. The situation does not make Israel's technology less successful," Mr. Salomon said.
Next month's trade mission was originally set to coincide with this month's planned launch of an Israeli astronaut on the space shuttle, but was postponed when that date was changed. Officials decided to go forward with a June date after the launch was again delayed, he said.
Mr. Salomon said the Consulate is also organizing an October trade mission to Florida that will focus on the information technology industry.
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