Economic Development

YSU, YBI Delegates Ready to Return to Israel

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A delegation to Israel says it’s ready to return – perhaps this fall – to build on the relationships and opportunities of last month’s trip.

Representatives of the organizations who took the trip — Youngstown State University, Youngstown Business Incubator and the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, which arranged the trip — shared highlights and discussed opportunities for collaboration at a press news conference Wednesday morning at YSU.

The delegation visited Israel Jan. 12 through 18.

The trip was the third that the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation has organized over the past decade and this time, “We really figured out the model that needs to be used,” said Bonnie Deutsch Burdman, director of community relations/government affairs for the organization. Participants must be few in number, focused and the right people.

“The amount of follow-up that’s already taken place in the last couple of weeks has far surpassed the amount of follow-up that has happened over the last decade from the previous two trips, Burdman said.

“I don’t think we can wait a full year to go back and do our next round of follow-ups,” said Barb Ewing, YBI chief operating officer. “I hope to get back sometimes in the next year, perhaps in the fall, to see what additional relationships we can establish.”

The trip included meetings at five universities and with representatives of several companies. The delegation toured Jerusalem and met with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the director general of the prime minister’s office.

“It was amazing how we were welcomed,” said YSU President Jim Tressel. “The desire to collaborate with us was just overwhelming. … The interest and the focus on education was amazing.”

The trip underscored that the Mahoning Valley is a “world-class community” for advanced manufacturing, Ewing said.

“Many people went in with the assumption as we were going into the meetings that we didn’t have a lot of offer,” Ewing said. “But what we saw time and time again as we walked out of those meetings … that we were able to go toe to toe with the very best Israel has to offer in terms of the programs and services that we provide to technology-based startups, especially in additive manufacturing.”

Among the institutions the delegation visited was The Technion. “They call themselves Israel’s MIT,” said Brett Conner, director of advanced manufacturing workforce initiatives as YSU. He described The Technion as “exceptionally impressed“ with additive manufacturing capability in Youngstown.

He also noted Israel’s leadership in developing 3-D printing and that technology giants such as Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft have footprints there because of its “culture of innovation.”

Conner characterized the trip as “the most productive” he has ever been on. “Every single visit, we came away with specific action items,” he said.

In addition, the delegation met with representatives of two Israeli seed fund/accelerator programs, including The Junction, a fund associated with Barak Rabinowitz, a Youngstown native who is now a leading venture capitalist in Israel, Ewing said. Rabinowitz, managing partner of F2 Capital, is well respected in the Israeli venture community.

“Because of this trip we have a really unique opportunity to form a long-term relationship with Barak and the organizations that he is affiliated with,” she said. By nature, additive manufacturing firms are more capital intensive to launch and require a higher level of investment. So she hopes a relationship with Rabinowitz “will help open some doors for us on that and help build that capacity.”

In addition, YBI is looking to establish a formal partnership, an “evolving” one, with The Junction, she said.

The delegation met with several additive-manufacturing companies in various stages of development, including a company that will be in Pittsburgh in May for a trade show and two early-stage companies that have expressed in working with YBI, she said. “The earliest-stage companies seem to be the best fit for the services that we have to offer right now,” she said.

Opportunities arising from the trip include student exchanges, study-abroad programs, and internships at 3-D printing companies in Israel, faculty exchanges, collaborative research and the chance for Israeli companies to come here and launch technologies.

Opportunities for YSU turned out greater than Tressel anticipated, he said. “I knew we could do it in the engineering fields and the innovative fields. I really didn’t know it would be so good in the medical fields. I didn’t know that it would be so good in the criminal justice field,” he said. “I didn’t even think about the archeology side of things.”

Longer term, Ewing said, she would like the Valley to have a formal representative in Israel, “someone with a business card that represents us as we try to attract deals here.”

Pictured: Jim Tressel speaks at the news conference Wednesday that provided details of the visit. WIth him, from left, are Barb Ewing, YBI, Brett Conner, YSU, Bonnie Deutsch Burdman and Andy Lipkin, Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, and Nate Myers, YSU.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.