Canadian city opens Tel Aviv development office

‘As a looking-forward city, we need to connect with the most forward-looking country, and that’s Israel,’ says Vaughan city councillor.

Signing an MOU at Jerusalem College of Technology, from left, JC Technologies CEO Stuart Hershkowitz; JCT President Chaim Sukenik; and Centennial College’s Brad Chapman, Trish Dryden and Virginia Macchiavello

A planned medical center in Vaughan, Ontario, may install a futuristic Israeli parking system. And the Toronto suburb’s 8,000 kilometers of roads may be illuminated more inexpensively by innovative lighting from an Israeli company.

These and dozens of other possible cooperative ventures are the fruit of a 23-person business and academic delegation to Israel this October.

There’s really a three word answer why we’re here: to do business,” said Vaughan Councillor Alan Shefman.

Our city is fast-growing – for seven of the last 10 years we’ve done over a billion dollars of construction – so we’re coming to Israel as part of our economic development plan, which identified China, Italy and Israel as strategic partners,” he added.

“As a looking-forward city, we need to connect with the most forward-looking country, and that’s Israel.”

Led by Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, the mission followed up on a previous trip laying the groundwork for industrial and academic R&D cooperation as well as joint ventures between Israeli firms and Vaughan’s 9,900 businesses.

Participants set up 175 meetings and signed a flurry of memorandums of understanding (MOUs), including several with Israeli colleges such as the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), where ISRAEL21c attended a presentation by the Canadians to 100 members of the Jerusalem Business Networking Forum.

Set up shop in Tel Aviv

Shefman said that after reading the bestselling Start-Up Nation book on Israeli entrepreneurship, three leaders of Canada’s 17th largest city (population 310,000) came on an exploratory trip earlier this year to build relationships with industry leaders across Israel.

The October mission included representatives of 21 companies, as well as Centennial College and York University.

“Two hundred people attended an event we held to attract interest, and an additional 22 companies were interested in participating but couldn’t come,” Vaughan Director of Economic Development Jennifer Ladouceur told ISRAEL21c.

“We identified opportunities for them in Israel and arranged conference calls beforehand so they could progress a lot faster with potential partners once we got here.”

Underlining Shefman’s assertion that the city is “very, very serious” about going forward with Israeli collaborations, Vaughan has established a development office in Tel Aviv to facilitate all future partnerships.

I think next year we can bring double or triple the number of people to Israel,” predicted City Councillor Tony Carella. “Our ultimate goal is have [the Israelis see] Vaughan as a gateway to the North American market.”

Business between Israel and Canada is already brisk, said Sheldon Potter, managing director of ColdSpring Commerce, which services Israeli companies doing business with Canada.

We’re seeing some Israeli companies buying or partnering with Canadian companies to gain a market foothold in North America, such as Amiad for water technology,” Potter said. “But we’re not focused on one particular sector. They have product, innovation and technology here that is second to none.”

Educating diverse populations

Centennial College – encompassing eight schools across five campuses – announced that in addition to JCT, MOUs were signed with academic institutions including Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Hadassah Academic College of Jerusalem and the College of Law and Business in Ramat Gan. Discussions also were held with Tel-Hai College, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the University of Haifa and Magen David Adom (the Israeli emergency response system) to explore possible joint projects.

One of the areas of cooperation will be based on Israel’s experience in integrating immigrant and disadvantaged populations into institutions of higher learning, according to Centennial’s CFO and Vice President for Development Brad Chapman.

“We have lots of new immigrants just as Israel does, and we need to learn how to absorb them and make them successful,” Chapman said.

Stuart Hershkowitz, CEO of JCT’s tech transfer company, JC Technologies, said Centennial is interested in adapting JCT’s successful pre-college program crash course in science, technology, English and math for college-bound ultra-Orthodox and Ethiopian students who did not formally learn these essentials in their early schooling.

In addition, Hershkowitz told ISRAEL21c, “We have various areas of research we can share and areas of cooperation in business. We have projects in road safety, communications, public health and biotech that can be developed going down the road.”

Avi Kay, head of JCT’s Shuman Center for Entrepreneurship, pointed out that more than 60 startups have been launched by graduates of the 40-year-old college for religious men and women — including NDS, acquired by Cisco last year for $5 billion.

Colleges have taken a new role in Canada in filling the innovation gap,” Centennial College Director of International Education Virginia Macchiavello told the business forum. “So we’re here to do business with you.”

Reciprocal visits from Israeli business delegations already are under way.

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About Abigail Klein Leichman

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.