Arizona to establish trade office in Israel

Arizona State Rep. Tony Rivero spearheaded the new legislation to establish a trade office in Israel. (Gage Skidmore)

Arizona lawmakers approved an $11.8 billion budget last month that will include funding for the establishment of an Arizona trade office in Israel. Gov. Doug Ducey signed the budget on Friday, May 31.

The budget includes nearly $500,000 dedicated to three trade offices: one in Israel and two in Mexico.

Arizona Rep. Tony Rivero, R-Peoria, spearheaded the legislation to obtain those three trade offices. The funding was championed by Rivero, who initially opposed the budget until his request was granted.

“Israel’s new trade office is a major victory for Arizona,” said Rivero. “This development not only helps reinforce Arizona’s reputation as a business-friendly state, but it also provides Arizona and Israeli companies with an additional avenue to succeed in the global marketplace.”

President of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry Glenn Hamer said that the new Israel trade office “makes perfect sense.”

“During Gov. Ducey’s first term in office, he has made clear Arizona’s support for a strong Arizona-Israeli relationship,” Hamer said. “Israel is known worldwide as the Startup Nation. Arizona is the Startup State. Arizona and Israel are a great match.”

The trade office, which will be overseen by the Arizona Commerce Authority, builds on several initiatives that have taken place between Israel and Arizona over the last few years.

In 2015, Ducey attended the Water Technology and Environment Control Conference in Israel at the invitation of Israeli Minister of the Economy Aryeh Deri. In 2018, the Chamber and the U.S.-Israel Business Initiative signed a memorandum of understanding pledging to work together to support ongoing initiatives and activities to strengthen the economic and commercial ties. Under the MOU’s terms, the two organizations agreed to collaborate on water, financial technology, technology and startups, and defense and aerospace.

The Arizona Israel Technology Alliance and the Arizona Technology Council applauded the new legislation. Both organizations worked to strengthen ties between the state and country and advocated for the new trade office.

“Our goal has always been to promote trade and investment between Arizona and Israel, and establishing a trade office is a huge leap forward in that collaborative process,” said Leib Bolel, president and CEO of the AITA, and venture partner at Grayhawk Capital. “We applaud Gov. Ducey and the state legislature for recognizing the potential of trade relations between these two innovative powerhouses, which will reap economic benefits for years to come.”

AITA’s mission is to increase and support bilateral trade and investment between Arizona and Israel, with each offering resources and opportunities across the technology industry, according to its website. The company, which was established in October 2017, has been instrumental in helping Israeli industry leaders like Airobotics, Eviation, and IMNA Solutions open their U.S. headquarters in Arizona.

Since AITA’s inception, the number of Israeli companies with operations in Arizona has increased from 12 to 18.

The trade office will be set up by the end of this year. Bolel thinks there are several reasons why Arizona and Israel have seen an increase in trade development. Both have similar challenges with water retention and access, for example. He added that both are also aligned in key industries, such as autonomous vehicles, digital health, aerospace, and cyber security.

Steven G. Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council, shares Bolel’s vision of increasing bilateral trade. He also serves on AITA’s advisory board.

“The Arizona Technology Council fully supports the new trade office in Israel,” said Zylstra. “Our partnership with AITA has helped both Arizona and Israel solidify their global presence in the technology community. The passing of this legislation represents another step forward in establishing Arizona and Israel as influential leaders in innovation.”

Bolel sees this new trade office as a valuable resource for new companies from either state to do trade.

“Having a state trade office in Israel first highlights the work that the Arizona Israel Technology Alliance has been championing. We’re seeing unprecedented outcomes between Arizona and Israel,” said Bolel. “These outcomes are part of the strong partnerships and collaborations that the AITA has built with leading state entities — including the Arizona Commerce Authority, which will be the state entity to govern the new trade office — in addition to the ability to broaden in the areas of business and initiatives that the AITA has been focused on.”

This article first appeared in the Phoenix Jewish News.