As New Jersey prepares for a new governor in January 2018, the time is right for the state once again to tend to its global business appeal to create to new jobs and economic activity. Few places offer the possibilities that can be found in Israel.
Phil and I recently returned from Israel on a trip coordinated in partnership with the nonpartisan organization Israel Seminar. We set out to see the potential that lays ahead. This was our second trip to Israel since Phil announced his candidacy for governor last May, and our fifth trip in the last three years — each visit consistently more packed than the one before with opportunities to explore greater partnership between New Jersey and Israel.
The ties between New Jersey and Israel are impossible to miss, including the growing recognition of the importance of Israel to New Jersey’s economy, and vice versa. In 2016, New Jersey exports to Israel exceeded $412 million dollars — a significant amount but one that, alarmingly, decreased more than 40 percent from 2015. This is an economic relationship that creates more than $1 billion in shared activity annually.
Many of the people we meet simply have not felt the personal touch from New Jersey to make them consider those same possibilities. Fostering this economic partnership will create benefits for both sides and we desperately need leadership to see it grow.
By many accounts, no other place in the world has as many high-tech startup businesses as Israel. And, by all accounts, no place has New Jersey’s strong history as a place of innovation — from scientists like Albert Einstein to workplaces such as Bell Labs, to name but two examples. What we need is the leadership and vision to put the pieces together.
We saw the innovative startup incubator at iHLS that is becoming a hub of cutting-edge technology security businesses. With a model that fully integrates businesses into an ecosystem that gives them access to global markets and expert guidance, it is easy to envision a similar accelerator functioning in New Jersey.
At each of Technion and the University of Haifa, we explored areas of mutual engagement among institutions of higher education. With New Jersey firmly situated as a home for world-class research universities and engineering programs, there is tremendous opportunity for global academic and economic partnerships between our schools and those in Israel.
And we met with multiple business leaders anxious to set down roots in the U.S. marketplace. These businesses are looking for places with large concentrations of highly skilled workers and access to global markets. But they hadn’t thought of New Jersey due to a lack of outreach or because of our limited outreach. Now, New Jersey is on their list.
The need to foster these relationships is not abstract. When Phil served as ambassador to Germany, we hosted numerous state delegations, each anxious to make their case for investment from German companies. In the four years we were stationed in Berlin, not one of those came from New Jersey.
We need to actively market ourselves and make the case that we’re more compelling than anywhere else — that we have every advantage Israeli businesses need to succeed. Businesses aren’t going to find New Jersey on their own, by accident, or in one-off trips.
As Phil and I learned in Israel, businesses are excited to look at New Jersey, so long as New Jersey is excited to look for them. And we are.
Tammy Snyder Murphy is chair of the think tank New Start New Jersey and the wife of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy.