Several thousand Israeli companies doing business in the United States have chosen to incorporate in Delaware. But the number of Israeli firms that actually base their U.S. operations in the First State is zero, according to Delaware Gov. Jack Markell.
The country’s lone Jewish governor is hoping to change that. The Democrat visited the Jewish state from July 5-12 to promote Delaware as an alternative U.S. location for Israeli companies and push for more cooperation between Delaware-based corporations and Israeli firms.
“We are on the radar screen for corporations. I want to get on the radar screen for everything else as well,” Markell said in an interview after he returned. “In terms of companies from Israel, setting up shop, normally they think of bigger markets and places that are better known.”
Delaware, one of the country’s smallest states, is known for its business-friendly laws that entice both domestic and foreign companies to legally incorporate there while not necessarily making the state a base of operations.
Markell, who first took office in 2009, has made raising Delaware’s profile internationally a high priority. He has also traveled to South Korea, Japan, India and South America to promote the state’s interests.
This was his ninth visit to Israel, but he first as governor. He was re-elected to a second term last year by a wide margin.
Markell, 52, led a delegation that included Alan Levin, director of the Delaware Economic Development Office, and Charlie Riordan, vice provost for research at the University of Delaware. They visited high-tech business incubators.
They also made stops at Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science to explore potential collaboration on research.
No tangible agreements were signed during the trip, he said but without getting specific, he indicated that the groundwork was laid for several potential deals that could bolster the state’s economy.
During his visit, Markell met with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s president, Shimon Peres. While economics and business were the focus of those discussions, Markell said issues such as the turmoil in Egypt and the nuclear threat posed by Iran came up as well.
“Within a couple hundred miles, you’ve got Egypt, what’s going on in Syria, what’s going on in Turkey and, of course, you have always got the situation in Iran,” he said. Unrest in Egypt could have “a very significant impact on Israel, but in the meantime, Israel is going about its business.”
The governor praised U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy and efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
“The secretary of state is doing the right thing by pushing,” he said. “I think the future of all the people in that region to a large degree is dependent upon whether or not they can figure out how to coexist. I’m certainly hopeful that all the parties are successful in that.”