Shoshanna Solomon’s interesting piece on the effort by the US Chamber of Commerce to increase business activity between the US and Israel is informative and the program itself is worthy of high praise.

Nevertheless, to put this into full perspective Times of Israel readers should know that there are already in place a number initiatives in this regard, some of which have been around for some years and are part and parcel of the reason that the current level of bi-lateral business activity is already so high

Prime among these programs is the presence in Israel of representatives of 13 US states and 8 ancillary regional bodies whose job it is to encourage further business activities between the two countries.

The 13 states currently represented here are Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York and Pennsylvania.  In past years others such as Alabama, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin have had representatives here as well and their decision to pull out was, most often, a result of changes in the political makeup of the government rather than lack of performance.

In addition a number of US regional entities are also represented here such as:  Cincinnati (Ohio), Dayton (Ohio), Fairfax County (Virginia), and St Louis (Missouri).  Finally, there are also representatives of US-based bilateral Chambers of Commerce such as the Michigan-Israel Business Bridge, Oklahoma Israel Exchange, CONNEX-America Israel Chamber of the Southeast and the Virginia Israel Advisory Board.

All of these operate under the aegis of the American State Offices Association which I chair and which provides a single platform for mutual cooperation, productive interchange and positive growth.

As a result, in addition to the impressive trade statistics shared in the earlier piece, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently released foreign direct investment (FDI) data for 2016.  The figures show that Israel is the 13th largest source worldwide for foreign direct investment into the U.S. at $55.4 million, roughly equal to that of Belgium, Australia and Sweden.   What is even more impressive is that this is an astonishing 121% increase from 2015 and that Israel is the 8th fastest growing source of FDI for the U.S.

To be sure, Israel’s numbers were helped by Frutarom’s purchase of New Jersey-based Grow Co. Inc. for $20 million.  Nevertheless, there were plenty of smaller examples such as Omen Die Casting’s decision to build a 76,000 sqm production facility in southeast Indiana with a $7 million investment creating 100 jobs.

For a country that has been traditionally seen as one where early stage startups are eager to sell out to foreign buyers, the fact that Israel is engaged in foreign direct investment abroad demonstrates its maturity as an economic powerhouse in the region.   It is interesting to note that in the list of the top 15 countries, Israel is the only one located in the Middle East.

In short, while there is yet more work that can be done and we here are all grateful for the initiative and assistance provided by the US Chamber of Commerce, the platform has been a strong one for some years and can only grow larger.  Hopefully together with the Chamber’s continued commitment that promise will be realized.