Michigan and Israel economic partnership continues to grow thanks to MIBA.
The Michigan Israel Business Accelerator (MIBA), a bi-national nonprofit chamber of commerce formed in 2017 dedicated to increasing economic ties between Michigan businesses and Israeli companies, is continuing its efforts to strengthen and improve successful partnerships initiated by its 10-year predecessor, the Michigan Israel Business Bridge (MIBB).
The MIBA is a public-private partnership funded by state dollars through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) as well as foundations, corporations and individual donors.
The MIBA recently appointed Israeli-born Sandy Selinger as its first chief executive officer. He plans to address the group’s commitment to improve the Michigan economy by expanding collaboration with Israeli businesses, fostering relationships in areas such as advanced manufacturing, mobility, cyber security, health and life sciences, water technology and defense.
“Michigan businesses have unlimited potential to work with Israel-based businesses and vice-versa,” Selinger said. “As CEO, I plan to elevate Michigan as the destination Israeli entrepreneurs think of when considering expanding business operations into the United States.”
Selinger, a London School of Economics graduate with 20 years’ experience building and expanding the U.S. operations of Israeli startups, recently relocated with his family to Grosse Pointe Park from New York.
Previously, he was the head of website development platform Wix.com’s Manhattan office, overseeing its marketing team and increasing its national presence. He also spearheaded operations and finance at Pysop Inc., a commercial production company, overseeing its growth to an international design and production firm with 120 employees in New York, Los Angeles and London. Selinger also served in the Israel Defense Forces as a rescue and evacuation unit operations officer and squad leader.
“I was born in Israel and grew up there,” he said, “and over the years, I’ve seen Israel develop into a technological and innovation world leader. I now live in Michigan, where the potential and momentum for growth are palatable. Israeli companies can gain much from being in Michigan, which offers a business-friendly environment, world-class academic institutions, engineering and manufacturing, and access to a standard of living that’s hard to match.”
This economic cooperation has been the focus of MIBA and the MIBB before it. Former MIBB Executive Director Hadas Bernard explained her role in expanding the MIBB’s viability and its membership, as well as promoting the successful transition to its expanded impact as the MIBA.
“I was hired to be the ‘change agent’ for the MIBB,” Bernard said. “My mission to increase the scope and purpose of the organization included organizing 300-plus business meetings between Israeli and Michigan companies, creating new partnerships and jobs. For example, a recent meeting resulted in an Israeli company opening a new office in Oakland County.”
Bernard’s efforts also resulted in networking events in Tel Aviv, Detroit and Grand Rapids that featured speakers such as Israeli cyber specialist Rami Efrati and Crain’s Detroit Business Group Publisher Mary Kramer.
A significant accomplishment was the 2017 Israel Michigan Cyber Mission, led by Gov. Rick Snyder, and the Michigan Israel Defense Mission, coordinated with SIBAT (Israel’s International Defense Corporation), Israel’s Ministry of Defense, Macomb County and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. In addition to meeting with Michigan companies, Israeli defense participants met with the governor, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, the Israeli Deputy Counsel of the Midwest and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel.
Beth Gotthelf, who served as MIBB president from October 2015 until January 2018, recalled the overwhelming success of the mission.
“It was the first time the Israeli Ministry of Defense held a weeklong mission with a state, rather than with a country,” Gotthelf said. “The ministry describes the Michigan mission as the gold standard it now measures all other missions against. Our missions have included automotive companies, and we’ve expanded to areas such as cyber security and mobility, and more.”
Selinger accentuated the importance of such cooperation to expand opportunities in cutting-edge concerns.
“MIBA is a catalyst focused on the economic betterment of Michigan,” he said. “We have exciting plans moving forward, including leading a delegation to Israel in early May focused on mobility with the American Center for Mobility (a newly opened, Ypsilanti Township-based test ground for intelligent vehicle technology) and other Michigan companies.”
The importance of the Michigan-Israel relationship is evident in Detroit’s Jewish population, especially when viewed through the eyes of such advocacy groups at the Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Committee.
“The MIBA demonstrates practically how Israel is producing startups and innovative companies that greatly benefit the world,” JCRC/AJC Executive Director David Kurzmann said. “I’m delighted to see the increased collaboration between Michigan and Israel, and all the good the MIBA does fostering this relationship.”
MIBA Board Chairman Mark Davidoff also indicated his support for the organization’s efforts, support that was formed over 25 years of association with the cooperative economic agenda between his home state and the Jewish state.
“The term ‘accelerator’ was coined to capture the idea that with this new organization, we’re going to take all of the energy created over the past 25 years of Michigan-Israel economic development and drive it forward, accelerate it.
“MIBA is the single portal for business-to-business connections between Michigan and Israel,” he continued, “driving our economic development and providing Israeli companies the opportunity to leverage the deep industrial base here. It’s a win-win, for Michigan’s economy and Israel.”
And what positive aspects does Selinger see going forward with the MIBA?
“We’re in an amazing, privileged position of supporting business owners that can affect an economic revolution in Michigan,” he concluded. “I have the envious position of meeting doers who are passionate about what they’re creating, and I’ll need to find ways to focus on creating economic opportunities to help them do more. I work at making connections, opening doors and promoting two parts of the world I’m excited about. This really is a great job!”