Since my retirement in August 2013 as president of the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Region, the organization hired a new president/CEO, changed its name to Conexx, and saw the resignation of my successor after just 16 months on the job.   Fortunately, there was a steady hand steering the ship during the interim, and it was announced this week that Guy Tessler, my former VP and later the COO of Conexx, has been named the new professional head of the organization.  I’m very proud of Guy and happy to see him leading the Southeast U.S.’s premier Israel economic development organization.

Guy came to work with me in 2007, and learned the business very quickly.  With his previous experience as program manager for the Israel Association of Community Centers in Jerusalem and later in the private sector as general manager of Falcon West Security in Los Angeles and as a developer with ClickFox in Atlanta, it was surprising how easy Guy’s transition was to our membership-based, not-for-profit matchmaker group.  He made his mark on the organization by specializing in deal flow between American and Israeli firms seeking partnerships, investments, joint R&D, and business development.  He organized several business missions to Israel and hosted numerous Israeli delegations to our region. His understanding of technology along with his unflappable, can-do disposition made him an invaluable and well-appreciated member of our team. Guy’s understanding of the differences between Americans and Israelis smoothed many potential cultural bumps into successful relationships and deals.

Now, Guy has the chance to show his stuff as the President & CEO, and I’m confident he will be successful.  Simultaneous with Guy’s promotion was the announcement that André Schnabl, retired managing partner of Grant Thornton’s Atlanta operation and the Chamber’s former board chairman, has agreed to serve as Strategic Advisor for Conexx.  André was instrumental as a volunteer in developing the organization’s strategic growth throughout the years and certainly is one of the finest lay leaders with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work.  His appointment will complement Guy’s many strengths and provide both continuity as well as strong and respected relationships within the Southeast business community and Israel.

As one of the organization’s founders and its chief executive for almost 22 years, I found it difficult to turn over the reins in my retirement, not sure if what I had developed would endure and prosper under different leadership. With Guy Tessler at the helm, assisted by André Schnabl and a new generation of volunteer leaders, I’m hopeful that Conexx will build on the past and set the pace for now and years to come.

Congratulations, Guy, and I wish you all the best of success!