Last night’s Eagle Star Awards Gala was a major landmark for U.S.-Israel business. Hosted by AT&T Mobility whose headquarters is in Atlanta, the event honored the people and companies contributing most to the Southeast-Israel business and economic relationship. It was organized by the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Region whose president & CEO, Shai Robkin, used the platform to announce that the organization will now be known as conexx: America Israel Business Connector.

AT&T was a logical host since two of their four Foundry innovation centers are located in Atlanta and Ra’anana. Glenn Lurie, President of Emerging Enterprises and Partnerships, was the keynote speaker.  A frequent visitor to Israel, Lurie spoke passionately about how Israeli startups are developing new solutions for AT&T’s strategic initiative to drive innovation both inside and outside the traditional wireless sector including automobiles and the home.

Four awards were presented. Homi Shamir, former CEO of Given Imaging, received the Tom Glaser Leadership Award, and I had the honor of presenting it to him. I noted my personal connection to this dynamic Israeli medical device company that led to their decision 14 years ago to establish their North America headquarters in Atlanta. Given Imaging was recently acquired by Covidien for a reported $850 million.

Vaya Pharma was recognized as Israeli Company of the Year. This subsidiary of Migdal HaEmek-based Enzymotec headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina is showing rapid market growth for its lipid-based products. The Deal of the Year award was presented to Sdot Yam-based Caesarstone that is establishing its new U.S. manufacturing operation in Richmond Hill, Georgia and creating 180 direct jobs there.

Lockheed Martin was named U.S. Company of the Year for its  long partnership with Israel, and the award was accepted by Shan Cooper, vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems located in Marietta, Georgia, home to the C130 Hercules transport recently delivered to the Israel Air Force and the F22 Raptor.  SEMDA, the Southeast Medical Device Association, received the Community Partner Award.

It was heartening for me to see the huge turnout and excitement for the organization I founded and ran for 22 years until my retirement last fall. What a wonderful feeling it was to reconnect with old friends and colleagues, members and partners, and sense the enduring vitality of the movement we started so many years ago. Congratulations to the former AICC, now conexx, for a stellar evening, and best wishes for another great year!