Thomas Sudow: When you look at what comes out of Israel every day and the technological innovation, it’s amazing. But Israel needs a marketplace. You might not expect to hear Hebrew spoken in the malls and restaurants of a middle American town like Beachwood, Ohio.
But these days, it’s not such an unusual occurrence. As the result of a directed effort by the Beachwood Chamber of Commerce and the Beachwood Development Center, more than a dozen Israeli companies have co-located to the Cleveland high tech center over the last two years.
“The program was initiated by Mayor Merle Gordon to build for Beachwood’s economic future, and we chose Israel as our collaboration,” said Thomas Sudow, Executive Director of the Beachwood Chamber of Commerce.
The effort, Sudow told ISRAEL21c, “is adding to the economic vitality of the region. When you look at what comes out of Israel every day and the technological innovation, it’s amazing. But Israel needs a marketplace. We felt that this was a natural mix for both parties – it helps the local economy and helps Israeli businesses,”
With a resident population of 12,000, Beachwood is a major center of commerce, with over 3,000 companies employing 30,000 people in its 5.25 square miles. The suburb is located within close proximity to the Cleveland Clinic, highly regarded for its clinical studies. While Israeli companies have traditionally looked to New York and California in which to establish US presence, the advantages to smaller, less expensive, and more personal locations like Beachwood are becoming increasingly clearer to them.
“Geographically, we’re an ideal location for any company. You can reach 80% of the East Coast within a three-hour flight, and 60% of the country and Canada can be reached by car in under 24 hours,” said Sudow.
“Our goal was not to have Israeli companies move out of Israel, but to co-locate to Beachwood and create a new cluster of industries. We have a lot to offer, there is already a fairly substantial Israeli community, and whether religiously or culturally, Beachwood can take care of any needs. We even have some great kosher restaurants.”
But as much as Beachwood has to offer prospective companies from Israel, both Sudow and Richard Schottenstein, Regional Director of the Ohio Office of Trade and Investment in Tel Aviv, believe it’s the Israeli companies that have more to offer Beachwood and Ohio.
“Israeli presence helps Beachwood on a number of levels. On a simple, practical level, it’s providing jobs. Let’s say an Israeli company opens office, and needs to hire two or three people, they’ll hire local people,” Schottenstein told ISRAEL21c.
“Even more importantly, we’re talking about the technology these companies are bringing to the state. Very often, they provide a unique or unusual technology that will boost Ohio’s stature as well as the economy. If a new medical or software technology is introduced, or even a new manufacturing technique for something that is big in Ohio – like the production of tires – it’s helping to boost Ohio industry.”
Following the decision to woo Israeli companies three years ago, the first thing Sudow did was to hire a consultant named Mel Allerhand, who combined his years of experience providing financial advice to Cleveland area Fortune 500 companies with a love and knowledge of Israel.
“Thanks to Mel’s guidance, today we have 14 companies with offices in Beachwood,” Sudow said.
“So far, we’ve been focusing in three areas – medical devices, high tech and the automotive industry. We give them all the necessary assistance – from accommodations and fundraising help to market research, partnerships, and client introductions.”
According to Mark Zuckerman, the President of Omat, a Jerusalem-based firm specializing in manufacturing technology for metal cutting optimization, the co-location to Beachwood last year has been a boon for his company
“It’s been a wonderful and beneficial relationship. We’re in an industry that has a big presence in Ohio – the machine tool industry, for which we provide a high tech application. As we grow, I see us as being a core for revitalizing and helping that industry grow,” he told ISRAEL21c.
High tech company Amodat which develops wireless online/offline business solutions for mobile workforces, is also enthusiastic about their move to Beachwood. Their director of business development, Marcia Brooks, said that the Ludow’s development center went out of their way to help the company establish its US presence.
“They did everything they could to help, getting us relocated as quickly as possible at the lowest cost. That was two years ago, and it was a great decision. It’s actually a ‘virtual’ office – used for sales and marketing. Just to have a presence in the US is very helpful,” Brooks said. “Ohio is great – the expenses are lower for everything than they are in New York or California, and it’s a nice community. Anything you need, and they will help.”
Sudow said that the Israel-Beachwood program has already seen some concrete results, with some of the co-located Israeli companies striking out on ventures with American firms.
“Some of the most promising companies are Alpha Mirror which is developing auto-dimming mirrors for automobiles and trucks, a joint venture between Elbit and Alpha Micron. It if works out well, they’re going to have an electronically superior mirror that can house all electronics for the car, including anti-glare devices and microphones,” he said.
Sudow also cited a spinoff of Tadiran’s called Spectralink which is developing advanced wireless communications products for manned and unmanned aircraft, guided weapons and space platforms, as well as unique search and rescue systems.
Another company called Adrecom – founded by scientists from the former Soviet Union who settled in Israel – has developed an advanced network simulation software. They’ve been in touch with local high tech companies and have received favorable responses, according to Sudow.
In addition, Beachwood is coordinating the North American activities for the 20 companies housed in the Ashkelon Technical Industries (ATI), one of the government-run high tech incubators.
“In our minds, it’s one of the most successful incubator programs in Israel,” said Sudow.
He cautioned, however, against Israeli companies expecting to see immediate benefits as a result of the collaboration with Beachwood.
“It takes time to build partnerships, it doesn’t happen overnight. This is a long-term process. We’ve created a cluster and it will grow over time. Eventually I think there’ll be several thousand employees as a result of the Israel-Beachwood collaboration, and there’ll be spinoffs. But you first need to create that cluster,” he said.
Schottenstein agreed that patience is a virtue. But in his view, the very fact that Israeli companies have opened offices in Beachwood has had a positive impact on the surroundings.
“There’s a synergy at work by the fact that we’re helping some Israeli companies. Even if they’re not currently providing jobs or a unique technology at the outset, their presence will help attract other companies to Beachwood.”