By Eli Freund ~
When entering the Club Room at Rentschler Field in East Hartford on June 6, one could feel a palpable buzz. Business cards changed hands faster than the eye could process. At 8 a.m., the heads of several businesses from the State of Connecticut got a chance to interact with the heads of companies from Israel at the Second Annual Connecticut-Israel Technology Summit. The day-long conference was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford in partnership with the MetroHartford Alliance and a slew of corporate and non-profit sponsors. Launched in 2011, the Connecticut-Israel Technology Summit aims to foster both business and cultural relationships between the Hartford region, the state of Connecticut and Israel.
Nearly 100 business representatives packed the Club Room anxiously awaiting opening remarks from Governor Dannel Malloy. Malloy was very upbeat about establishing and nourishing an already solid connection between Connecticut and Israeli businesses. “We historically have had a large amount of trade with the State of Israel,” he said. “We already are aware that there are a number of Israeli-based businesses in Connecticut.”
Malloy was clearly pleased to have the opportunity to introduce new businesses to the state of Connecticut in light of the residual effects of the economic recession that has fluctuated throughout the past four years. Despite the brutal recession that has affected the entire United States, he noted, Connecticut has found a way to rise above the turmoil surrounding it and has, in fact, risen to the occasion. “Connecticut beat 41 other states in economic output” Malloy said, “That’s the first time the state has lead in economic recovery, only Massachusetts has a larger growth.”
After the Governor’s upbeat speech on the state of the economic environment, the Consul General of Israel, Ido Aharoni, put in a strong word for his relatively small country “We don’t bring numbers [of people], we don’t bring economic might … The one export we bring is a tremendous level of creativity and innovation,” Aharoni said, conveying the message that, while Israel is small in relation to its neighbors, it has long been known as a breeding ground for technology and software start-ups.
But the decision to create a business relationship with the United States isn’t based purely on economic ties, Aharoni pointed out. “America has a very special place in Israeli culture… They ended the war, they ended Nazi-ism, and have always supported the State of Israel.” The decision to do business with Connecticut and the United States is almost a social obligation, he said, a conglomeration of two nations attempting to aid each other’s economic futures.
After opening remarks from the two important delegates from Israel and the United States, the summit ran throughout the day with business, academic and financial panels, as well as several speeches on networking and innovation in the State of Israel. The crowd, filled with Israeli and American business men and women, got the chance to hear both sides of the coin, in terms of the potential benefits Connecticut could offer, the innovation Israel could bring to businesses and academic settings, and the close proximity to the markets of Boston, New York and Hartford.
Of all the speeches and remarks of the day, those offered by Aharoni succeeded best in putting the conference into perspective. With passion, he emphasized that doing business with Israel wasn’t about religion or politics. “We have a phenomenal bond between these two countries and both these countries are bastions for technology,” he said. So, while the day was an opportunity to create stronger bonds between the state of Connecticut and the State of Israel, political and religious nuances were avoided, and economic and academic innovation, and university and business professionals expanding to foreign markets were emphasized.
On June 6 many business cards were exchanged but, more importantly, barriers were broken, and life-long relationships were created.