48 meetings in 8 days: Here are the biggest takeaways

By Anjalee Khemlani
Germany/Israel | Oct 24, 2018 at 2:59 pm
Special Report

Gov. Phil Murphy’s trade mission to Germany and Israel produced a number of agreements — and planted the seed for many more, administrations officials said.

Here’s a look at 10 things learned on the trip:

  1. Murphy’s name still means a lot in Germany

At least that was the word of Nicola Michels, who was formerly with German American Chamber of Commerce in New York.

Michels was named the managing director of the European promotional office of Choose New Jersey, which will be based in Berlin.

Michels, who has been working in Germany for the past three months to get the office off the ground, feels her outreach already has had impact. And she feels Murphy’s name had a lot to do with that.

“I spoke to so many people, and whenever I mentioned the name Phil Murphy, first of all, doors were thrown wide open, and, second of all, so many fond memories came up,” she said.

Choose New Jersey officials said they have seen a doubling of calls from companies interested in moving to the state since the office opened.

  1. Businesspeople in Germany and Israel love New Jersey’s location and see it as a connector in the middle of the Washington-Boston corridor

At least, that’s what Economic Development Authority head Tim Sullivan said he’s been told.

“People, appropriately, think about New Jersey as central to the beating heart of the American economy,” he said. “That’s the northeast corridor from Washington up to Boston.

“For us to be able to make the case and tell and remind people of the so much New Jersey has to offer not only in our cities, (but) in our suburban communities as well. … It was a really helpful reminder because that message I think resonated pretty strongly.”

  1. German companies are looking to U.S. governors more for economic leadership

Joachim Lang, CEO and member of the board of management of the Federation of German Industries, gave Murphy a piece of good news during a roundtable hosted at Bayer in Berlin.

While Lang told the crowd that President Donald Trump’s policies have more German companies looking to Asia, it also is making German business leaders want to do business directly with state governors as opposed to the federal government, because they know governors have the authority to make certain decisions.

“Our companies are very much focusing on governors and their connections to governors,” he said. “We’re talking to the governors and to the senators in the states where German businesses are. Together, the United States and Germany are responsible for 50 percent for world trade, and we are responsible for 60 percent of foreign direct investments.”

  1. New Jersey has a good story to tell. It just needs to tell it

Sullivan said that was apparent watching others listen to Murphy on the trip.

“One of the things I think is exciting is that the governor did such a great job on so many different occasions making the pitch and making the case for New Jersey,” he said.

“People need to hear that message. Those of us who live and work in New Jersey know a lot of this like the back of our hand. But if you’re not out there making the case, telling that story, you don’t have an opportunity for people to be considering you and thinking about you.

“Candidly, a lot of the feedback we heard back was, ‘Wow. We knew what we know a little bit, but now we know a lot more and we’re eager to follow up and have a follow-up conversation.’ So, I expect we’ll have some friends, some new friends coming to visit us in the next coming weeks and months to, to think about specific sites, specific locations and all those kinds of things.”

  1. New Jersey’s diversity resonates well overseas

Sullivan said it came up time and again.

“I think it was an important reminder about the economic value of diversity, and having so many strong communities from all around the globe that have major presences in New Jersey … that makes Jersey a natural place for partnerships with lots of different immigrant communities,” he said.

  1. New Jersey officials were impressed with Palestinian business leaders

Murphy said he was glad he took the meeting.

“We had wanted to reach out through the consulate, (to meet with) some representatives of the Palestinian business community in East Jerusalem,” he said. “We met (seven companies) with business interests (in East Jerusalem, the West Bank or Gaza). I was impressed. There (were) some really good corporate stories there, including some that do a fair amount of business in America. My gut tells me there’s an opportunity to do more.

“We’ve got the largest Palestinian community of any American state, and it’s probably the least developed, just because of all of geopolitics that are around it, business relations. One of the follow-up ideas, and I mentioned this to another Palestinian technology entrepreneur, is they should get on a plane and fly over and see our situation with their own eyes.”

Choose New Jersey CEO Jose Lozano agreed.

“They were fascinating conversations and, given all the barriers and challenges that they have, they seem to be doing quite great,” he said. “And, so, given the amount of engineers and entrepreneurs that they have, I think is a good match for New Jersey in the East Coast and some of the other sectors that we’re really focusing on.”

  1. The agreement the state signed with the Israel Innovation Authority could be the most important deal on the trip

The agreement puts New Jersey on a list of recipients for investment by the authority for companies that are ready to grow in the U.S. market.

Sullivan explained the impact.

“We’re really excited that EDA is going to have a formal relationship with them, because it sets us up and sort of makes New Jersey eligible sort of beyond their list, if you will, (to) have a partner when they have companies that they’ve either invested in or just aware of that want a presence in the U.S.,” he said. “We’re sort of on the friends of family list now for partnerships.

Sullivan said the agreement goes both ways.

“If New Jersey companies are thinking that they might want an international presence, it creates a pathway and a framework for us to help make more connections for his New Jersey companies here in Israel,” he said.

  1. Someone finally defined what the innovation economy is

It’s a question many have asked. Is it STEM fields? Yes, but it’s more — it includes some traditional sectors. In Frankfurt, Joe Kelley, deputy chief of staff for economic growth in Murphy’s office, finally provided a list of sectors that fall under the governor’s focus of the innovation economy.

Drum roll, please:

  • Life sciences and pharmaceutical startups;
  • “High-tech,” which includes tech startups and traditional software companies, as well as cybersecurity;
  • Advanced logistics;
  • Advanced manufacturing;
  • Clean energy;
  • Financial services, which can include fintech and crossover industries, such as insurance tech; and
  • Film, television and digital media.

There’s also one more. Sort of. The much-debated cannabis industry.

Cannabis, “though it doesn’t need much ‘gardening,’” represents an innovation opportunity in the context of its medical use and how that relates to the pharma and life sciences sector, Kelley said.

  1. New Jersey officials felt the trip had meaning and value

Murphy said, more than anything, it was the start of a lot of different conversations.

“We did get some tangible results and we planted a lot of seeds and furthered some conversations,” he said.

Lozano agreed.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a governor moves so fast and so many places,” he said. “We’re just wrapping up 48 stops days in eight days. It’s been a whirlwind.

“I think we’ve been very methodical in complementing the strategic plan that the government held on Oct. 1 and identifying the multiple sectors in which the state actually has to offer. We built a trip that actually complements those.”

  1. There will be more trips

“We just have to get some sleep first,” Lozano said.

Anjalee Khemlani | akhemlani@roi-nj.com | AnjKhem