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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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Vaughan mission to Israel seeks to build business ties

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TORONTO — Thornhill Councillor Alan Shefman says he’s looking for signed business deals during a City of Vaughan mission to Israel this fall.

The week-long trip, which has been in the works for about five months, will include about 25 business representative from the Greater Toronto Area, along with two Vaughan staff members, Shefman, Ward 2 Woodbridge West Councillor Tony Carella and Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua.

Shefman, who represents Vaughan Ward 5, noted that he was on a mission to Israel in 2008 that focused mainly on biotechnology.

“We didn’t have a clear strategy, though, and nothing came of it,” he said.

“Between then and 2010, we hired an economic development director, and we planned [our strategy] step by step.”

Shefman travelled to Israel last year along with Carella and Vaughan’s director of economic development, Tim Simmonds, and they explored the viability of an economic partnership between Vaughan and Israel.

“Paul Hunt, the Canadian ambassador to Israel, said that they see lots of delegations come through once, but they don’t see them again,” Shefman said.

“We were told we have to be serious, and we have to be willing to take risks. That is the credo and basis for [what’s come to be know as] the Vaughan-Israel Economic Project. The trip isn’t just a mission, it’s an overall project. It’s not a one-time trip. We are going to develop business-to-business relationships over [a number] of years.”

Shefman said trip organizers have connected with private businesses, as well as UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Israeli Consulate and trade office, among other Israeli-Canadian organizations with an interest in Canada-Israel business ties.

In a statement, Shefman said that “a key element for us is to connect a company here with a company there before we go, so that most of the work is done before we arrive.”

The trip will cost taxpayers about $41,000, he said, but he stressed that it’s worth the investment.

The goal is to make Vaughan a significant jumping-off point for Israeli firms in North America – a strategic location for their businesses.

Israeli firms comprise the second-largest number of companies on the New York Stock Exchange, and the amount of technological innovation in Israel is second to none, Shefman said.

“About 100 people turned out at a recent information meeting, and we have 17 booked already, and it is quite a diverse group,” he told The CJN.

“We may have to cut off registration.”

Vaughan is considering setting up an office in Israel, as well as a Vaughan entrepreneurial centre.

“This is a very serious venture,” he said.\

The next print edition of The CJN is Aug. 1.

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