Originally Published: August 18, 2018 4:25 p.m.
With Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s cybersecurity expertise as a backdrop, about 20 Israeli entrepreneurs had a business-to-business encounter with their Arizona counterparts this past week.
The Arizona Israel Technology Alliance chose Embry-Riddle’s Prescott campus as its location for an Aug. 10 confab of Israeli and Arizona businesses with an interest in expanding and collaborating.
Among the goals of the daylong meeting, said Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli, was to highlight the opportunities for tech companies in the Prescott area.
“This is a great opportunity for the Prescott region to showcase what we have to offer,” Mengarelli said, adding that such efforts tie in with the city’s recent push to attract tech start-up companies to locate in the area.
Calling the meeting “a landmark day for us,” Mengarelli told the more than 50 people in the audience that Prescott was hoping to attract businesses that would offer well-paying jobs for the students who attend Prescott colleges and universities, only to go elsewhere for their careers.
“We have amazing intellectual capital, and these amazing students are leaving us every year,” Mengarelli said.
Jim Robb, the City of Prescott’s economic development consultant, said the Aug. 10 meeting was a result, in part, of the work that went into attracting Israel firm Eviation to Prescott. The all-electric propulsion aircraft company announced earlier this month that it had selected Prescott for its U.S. corporate headquarters.
Through the economic-development efforts that preceded that move, Robb said he initially met Leib Bolel, the CEO and president of the Scottsdale-based Arizona Israel Technology Alliance.
The work between the two led to a suggestion that Prescott should be the meeting site for the group of Israeli business people visiting Arizona through the Arizona Israel Technology Alliance.
In all, Robb said about 30 Arizona business people joined the 20 Israel business people for the Aug. 10 meeting. Among the Arizona businesses represented were American Express, Arizona Public Service, and Salt River Project, he said.
A portion of the meeting involved matching up individuals from each faction in “speed networking” sessions.
In Bolel’s comments to the audience, he emphasized the similarities between Arizona and Israel. “We both live in deserts,” he said, and the populations of the two entities are similar — at about 7 to 8 million.
While Israel is much smaller than Arizona in land size, Bolel said the country ranks high in the world innovation index. “There are 600 net new start-ups each year,” he said.
Both Israel and Arizona have a “deep passion for cutting-edge technology,” with business interests in aerospace and defense and cybersecurity, Bolel added.
Still, he said, awareness of Arizona’s technological progress could be better.
“Israel, as a whole, hasn’t been so aware of the technology climate in Arizona,” Bolel said.
Prescott, in particular could be a “great resource” when it comes to cybersecurity and aerospace and defense, he said, adding, “This is just an example of a well-kept secret that shouldn’t be well-kept.”
Prescott Community Outreach Manager John Heiney said the city is involved to help get the word out. “Part of the city’s mission is to let the rest of the world know about these great assets we have,” he said.
Along with the involvement by Embry-Riddle and the city, Yavapai College also participated in the Aug. 10 event, highlighting its own cybersecurity program.