Gov. Gary Herbert said his recent trade mission to Israel, including historic meetings with Palestinian businesses and leaders, served to build Utah's image overseas and foster relationships that he believes will pay off in the future.
"I believe that in years to come we are going to see significant benefits to this trade mission, certainly economically, but also from a cultural level and a diplomatic level," Herbert said.
Herbert led a group of 30 Utahns on the four-day trade trip to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah that included meetings with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the outgoing Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad.
"The Palestinians were very pleased we stopped by. They always, I think, feel like they are second-fiddle," Herbert said. The visit by the delegation to the West Bank, Herbert said, also was appreciated by the Palestinian business leaders.
George Hamilton, vice president of business development for Intermountain Healthcare, said there are important innovations in the life sciences taking place in Israel, but opportunities to grow are limited.
Hamilton said he pitched an idea to "build a bridge to Utah," where startups can bring their product to Utah and access U.S. markets, creating jobs in the state. More than a dozen businesses are interested in visiting Utah to explore the options, he said.
Mel Lavitt, chairman of the board of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, said one of the meetings on the mission was with Moshe Yanai, who left IBM and has started his own data storage company. He expressed interest in opening a manufacturing center in Utah.
It would mean hundreds of jobs for the high-tech corridor in Utah County, Lavitt said.
"Part of what we do with trade missions is give information and heighten awareness so people understand there are choices out there, and Utah is one of the choices," Herbert said. "Most people, when we travel, know about Silicon Valley. They don't know about the Silicon Slopes here in Utah."