Gov. Reynolds: Iowans see opportunities in Israel

Prime minister urged to attend World Food Prize

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DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday that an Iowa trade mission to Israel has produced opportunities for collaboration and business investments, along with an invitation for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make his first visit to America’s heartland.

“I think we’ve had some pretty good potential outcomes,” said Reynolds, who wraps up a trip to the Mideast nation Wednesday before making a stop in Germany for an undisclosed purpose en route back to Iowa by Friday. She told Iowa reporters during a conference call her second trip to Israel in two years “was an opportunity for us to really highlight Iowa and why Iowa is a great place to do business and talk about opportunities for collaboration and partnership.”

Reynolds said she and the 25 Iowans participating in the trade mission heard from Netanyahu about the challenges his Jewish state faces in the Middle East and discussed ways to promote cooperation between Israel and Iowa on issues of water, technology and agriculture. The Iowa governor previously met with Netanyahu in Israel while on a trip with the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association.

Reynolds, who returned to Israel as leader of a delegation that signed agreements with universities — including Tel Aviv University and the Volcanic Institute — invited Netanyahu to visit Iowa, telling him “the World Food Prize would be a phenomenal event” for him to participate in.

Along with their “high-level appointments,” Iowans met with numerous Israeli companies interested in investment or trade with Iowa, hosted an investment seminar that drew 130 participants and held an Iowa reception in Jerusalem that spotlighted the state’s biotech industry, Reynold said.

“It was just evident throughout the trip how well we really align with innovation and high tech,” the governor told reporters. “The amount of start-ups that are being generated from Israel, and it’s such a small state, they’re looking for markets to really take those businesses in scale. We really I think have done a good job of indicating how Iowa is a good place for that,” she said, especially in bio- and life-sciences, precision agriculture and advanced manufacturing.

Debi Durham, director of Iowa Economic Development Authority, called her first mission to Israel “both educational and inspirational” with the opportunities that had presented themselves early on in the meetings. “There’s been tremendous follow-up,” Durham said during the conference call. “It’s been an incredible week.”

Iowa exports to Israel exceeded $30.6 million in 2016 — a 14.5 percent increase over 2015, the governor noted.

A highlight of the trip, Reynolds said, was an emotional ceremony the Americans attended at a memorial to the U.S. victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, where she read a poem and laid a wreath on behalf of Iowa. “It was an extremely moving ceremony,” she said.

l Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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