Panel Showcases Business and Research Collaborations and Opportunities
New Jersey and Israel have a strong and growing economic partnership built on mutual interest in technology, science and compatibility benefiting both communities.
“New Jersey is the only state in America with an office related solely to Israel,” said Andrew Gross, executive director of that office, the New Jersey-Israel Commission.
Created in 1989 to foster scientific, educational and cultural ties with Israel, one of the state’s leading trading partners, it is under the auspices of the Department of State and has 85 members.
Gross was moderator of a Feb. 6 panel discussion, The Future of Israel-NJ Economic Development and Business Relations, at Bell Works in Holmdel co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, Monmouth Reform Temple, DK Solutions, Fine Wines and Liquors of East Brunswick and B & B Wines and Liquors of Fair Lawn.
Despite a global pandemic, trade volume between the state and Israel increased from 2020 to 2021 from $1.33 billion to $1.55 billion and brought jobs to New Jersey. Gross noted that growth has continued, spurred on by support of the business community, governing officials and the factors.
He said Gov. Phil Murphy has made a number of trips to Israel and has encouraged Israeli business to locate in the state. The non-profit economic development organization Choose New Jersey has also made several missions to Israel in recent years.
Gross also noted New Jersey is home to one of the largest native Israeli populations in the country, making it a comfortable environment for employees of Israeli businesses.
One of those businesses that put down roots in the Garden State is Teva Pharmaceuticals, the world’s largest maker of generic drugs, which chose to move its North American headquarters from Pennsylvania to Parsippany-Troy Hills in 2018, bringing with it numerous high-paying skilled jobs.
Sarah Kan, Teva’s senior director of state government affairs, said there were numerous reasons New Jersey was a good fit for the company—so much so that it declined the financial incentives offered by the state for relocating.
“We knew New Jersey was a place with a confluence of all the important things,” she said, particularly “the deep breadth and depth” of the state’s biospace, including a thriving biocluster of research and facilities, business biodiversity and proximity to Newark Liberty International Airport.
Additionally, Kan said, Teva already had existing operations in Edison, Elizabeth and Fairfield.
“New Jersey and Israel are global leaders in the life sciences,” said Kan. ”The infrastructure is already here.”
The company has established collaborations with Rutgers, Atlantic Health System and Hackensack Meridian Health, among others.
Rutgers University Assistant Professor of Professional Practice Gary Minkoff, founder of several start-ups, said the lucrative American market is attractive to Israeli companies. Their cutting-edge technology and start-ups are looking for “a soft landing” such as with a university.
Rutgers and Tel Aviv universities have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate as part of the Innovation and Technology Hub under construction in New Brunswick.
New Jersey City University is collaborating with the Port of Ashdod, which will help bring startup companies to the Jersey City educational institution and potential pilot programs and other opportunities at New Jersey ports.
A partnership has been established between the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Ben-Gurion University to create a world-class Institute for Future Technologies in New Jersey that will offer dual degrees and new research opportunities.
The innovation and technology coming out of Israel and New Jersey is being driven by young people who are paving the way with groundbreaking solutions in everything from textiles to healthcare, transportation and technology, Minkoff said.
He has taught a class at Rutgers Business School focusing on business in Israel, taking students there for a firsthand look and describing the innovation and business models they saw as “incredible.”
Along those lines, East Brunswick Economic Development Officer Robert Zuckerman said the township recently established a sister city relationship with Yavne in Israel, enabling Israeli companies to have a direct link to residents and establish a footprint in the area.
“We look at the sister city relationship as being a conduit maybe to bring in business opportunities,” he said even if those opportunities may turn out to be in Edison or South Brunswick.
However, Zuckerman noted that such a relationships brings other benefits beyond economic, including educational.
Yavne is growing as a community and developing sustainable infrastructure, including using pneumatic tubes to collect trash and recycling, which Zuckerman said could possibly be applied in New Jersey. Moreover, East Brunswick High school offers urban planning and sustainability so there could be opportunities to develop programs in conjunction with Yavne.
“It can change the way people view the world,” said Zuckerman. “There really is a lot of opportunity there.”
DEBRA RUBIN IS A CONTRIBUTING WRITER TO JLIFE MAGAZINE.