Baker to lead December trade trip to Israel

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BOSTON >> Gov. Charlie Baker will lead a trade mission of about a dozen state government officials and 40 private sector representatives to Israel in December, his administration announced Wednesday, with plans to focus on cyber security and digital health innovation.

In what will be his first international trade mission since taking office in 2015, Baker will arrive in Tel Aviv on Dec. 9 and return to Massachusetts early on Dec. 15.

The state is partnering with the New England-Israel Business Council, a non-profit, for the trip with financial support from Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, the administration said. No public money will be used to finance the six-day trip.

Among those from state government expected to join Baker are: Assistant Secretary of Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship Katie Stebbins, Massachusetts Health Connector Executive Director Louis Gutierrez, Massachusetts Office of Information Technology Executive Director Mark Nunnelly, and Senior Advisor for Anti-Terrorism and Cyber Security Hans Olson.

Mike Vallarelli, Baker's deputy chief of staff, will also attend the trip and will serve as the trip leader.

"Massachusetts is one of the most innovative states in the country. The Baker Administration believes that Massachusetts can become a more attractive option for expanding businesses in these promising sectors, but we must work hard to attract them," Vallarelli said in a statement. "Today, Israel's e-health and cyber security sectors are global leaders and the Baker administration is ready to compete for the quality jobs and economic development opportunities this unique international partner represents."

Though the trip itinerary is still in the works, a Baker aide said the governor will most likely meet with Israeli political officials and recognize the historic and religious importance of the country.

The trade mission will focus on digital health and cyber security, areas that Baker has flagged as an interest and a concern, respectively.

A former health care executive, Baker has said health care providers could significantly improve their ability to monitor patients with chronic illnesses through wearable devices, digitization of medical records, big data and wireless technology.

Israel has for years been a leader in cyber security, administration officials said, and has developed a strong cyber security industry to complement the efforts of its government and military.

U.S. institutions have been targeted by attacks from abroad, and Baker has said keeping state data secure from hackers is one of the things "I lie awake at night worrying about."

A business-government delegation traveled to Israel in June to attend Cyber Week in Tel Aviv and to visit MassChallenge Israel in Jerusalem, an offshoot of the Boston-based business accelerator launched in January.

The December trip, the administration said, is intended to maintain and advance the relationships between Massachusetts and Israel, and between Bay State and Israeli businesses.

Since 2012, Israeli-founded businesses in Massachusetts experienced a 9.4 percent compound annual growth rate, more than double the gross state product growth of 4 percent over that period, according to the Massachusetts-Israel Economic Impact Study released in June.

The more than 200 Israeli-founded businesses in Massachusetts tallied $9.3 billion in direct revenues, roughly $18 billion in economic impact and supported 9,000 employees in 2015, the study reported.

Administration officials said Wednesday there is a rich pool of companies in Israel that are growing and looking to expand to the United States, and a goal of the governor's trade mission is to ensure that those companies consider locating themselves in Massachusetts.


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