‘Why Not Birmingham?’

Tech Exec Says B’ham Good Place for Israeli Companies

Twenty five people gathered Thursday afternoon at the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce to learn more about an economic development mission to Israel planned for early September. The Birmingham Jewish Federation, TechBirmingham and the American Israel Chamber of Commerce for the Southeast are combining to organize the mission.

“These companies in Israel are looking to open US markets,” Curtis Palmer, president of TechBirmingham, told the group. “Why not open them in Birmingham?” TechBirmingham is a non-profit entity formed to facilitate the start-up, attraction, growth, retention and expansion of technology-based businesses, investments and jobs for the Birmingham metropolitan region. This trip to Israel offers “great potential for collaboration with Israeli companies and the development of new products,” said Curtis, who had been involved with Israel in a previous job.
Curtis spoke after Jewish community leader Donald Hess, BJF Israel-World Jewry Bureau Chair Jim Tolbert and American Israel Chamber of Commerce Southeast President Tom Glaser had briefed the group on the case for doing business with Israel, the relationship between Israel and Alabama, and the shared benefits of economic development for both Alabama and Israel.
A wide spectrum of people attended, both Jewish and non Jewish, representing companies, law firms and governmental agencies.

The formal part of the program was followed by two people sharing their experience of doing business in Israel.

The first was David Anthony, a new member of our Jewish community, who is affiliated with UAB. David has done extensive investing in Israel.

Though it sounds “counter-intuitive” Israel is “probably one of the safest places to invest,” said David. He said that Israel is a society in which the rule of law prevails — citing, for example, laws governing intellectual property — and that this is an important factor when doing business and investing in countries abroad. He also said that younger business people in Israel tend to be more mature and better leaders than their counterparts elsewhere because of their experience in the military. He also noted that the Israeli government invests large sums in research and development.

The other person who spoke, George Wilbanks, is an executive with Drummond Coal. Drummond has become Israel’s largest supplier of coal. “Israel is a people place. Everybody in Israel seems to know each other,” he told the group. George travels to Israel about once a month on business. As a Christian, he has found Israel very meaningful spiritually and he urged every one at Thursday’s program to go on the trip. “You have to go and spend the time. It’s a fantastic country. There is no place like it.”

When it comes to business, he said the Israelis are smart and try to get the best deal they can, but are fair. “Our business in Israel has been one of the highlights of my business career.”
The Thursday afternoon meeting was the second of three information and recruitment sessions scheduled throughout the state. One was recently held in Mobile and there will be a meeting at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce today at 11:30 am.


Eighteen people thus far have expressed an interest in going on the mission. The goal of the trade mission is to foster commercial relationships between Alabama’s and Israel’s business communities, especially in high tech industries, though the trip is not limited to just those involved in the high tech sector. Specifically, the objectives of the mission are to:

  • provide introductions between Israel and Alabama based businesses in order to foster commercial opportunities;
  • explore opportunities for Israeli companies to set up U.S. operations in Alabama;
  • gain a better understanding of how Israel became a global technology leader and provide lessons for our state;
  • create mutually beneficial relationships between Alabama and Israel based companies through partnerships, investments, and vendor/customer relationships;
  • highlight Alabama’s high tech accomplishments through positive public relations generated by the mission;
  • provide an opportunity to learn more about and see the Holy Land and gain a better understanding of how Israel has been able to create a modern society based on democratic values and free enterprise in the heart of the Middle East.

The mission is for Jewish and non Jewish participants associated with companies involved in high technology, businesses that could benefit from more advanced technology or businesses that could gain advantages from exposure to Israel’s other state-of-the-art industries, such as homeland security and agriculture. In addition, the state’s political leaders are being invited to go to demonstrate Alabama’s commitment to innovation and economic development, as well as our state’s support for Israel.

For more information about the mission, contact Jim Tolbert, Chair of the BJF’s Israel-World Jewry Bureau, at jet@vc.edu or 205-283-7416. A short item about the trip appeared in the business section of today’s Birmingham News.

Be it through economic development, educational programs, public advocacy or fundraising, everyday in so many ways the Birmingham Jewish Federation helps build stronger ties between the people of Israel and the people of Alabama.

REBLOGGED from http://www.bjf.org/2005_06_01_bjf-archive.html


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