Do you know what the Strauss Group, Elbit Systems Ltd., Sano Group, Amdocs, Ness Technologies, Netafim, Kardan Group and Ofer Brothers Group all have in common? They are all Israeli companies who have invested in…..Romania!
And that fact is repeated country after country across the continent reflecting Israel’s commercial sector recognizing the importance of the European market to Israel’s economic viability.
Often we discuss commercial activities between North America and Israel frequently forgetting that Europe remains Israel’s largest export market with most local standards mirroring those in Europe. 30% of Israel’s exports valued at over $17 billion and 50% of its imports valued at over $31 billion relate to the European market. Given that growing intensity of economic activity, along with the geographic and cultural proximity between Israel and Europe, it is no wonder that Israeli companies are opening offices in Europe to access the local markets.
And the most fascinating aspect of this trend is that Israeli companies are, more and more, looking for locations away from Europe’s larger cities such as London, Paris and Rome. For example, do you know what the Israeli companies TEVA, Optronic, Frutarom, Orbotech, Iscar, Check Point and Dr. Fischer all have in common? All of them have their European Headquarters or a major European operation in Belgium.
Given the many options available in Europe one might ask, why would an Israeli company locate in…the Wallonia region in Belgium, for example?
For starters, Wallonia is well located in the center of Europe with access to a market of 375 million consumers within 4 hours’ drive and close to Europe’s capital of Brussels. Add to that the fact that Wallonia has cash grants available up to 20% of invested value, attractive R&D financial incentives of up to 75% of expenses, among the lowest real estate costs in Europe and the availability of highly skilled personnel, of particular interest to Israel’s high tech community.
Productivity in the area is amongst the highest in the world and its underlying social consensus ensures an unparalleled quality of industrial relations. In addition, Wallonia is an intercultural society and, therefore, multilingual. Straddling the border between Latin and Germanic Europe, Walloon society has one of the highest qualities of life on the continent.
The thrice daily 5-hour non-stop flights between Tel Aviv and Brussels brings Israeli companies within a one hour drive of Wallonia, making it a very accessible European destination.
While the region is conducive to the whole gamut of companies interested in locating there, it is particularly attractive to six sectors where there is particular strength, to wit: Aeronautics & Aerospace, Food & Agro-tech, Engineering & Advanced Materials, Life Sciences, Transportation & Logistics as well as Environmental Technologies – all of which have distinct relevance for Israeli industry.
In short, Israelis can find a lot more in Belgium than good chocolates. Israelis seeking to create a presence in Europe would do well to consider locations “off the beaten track”—like Wallonia—to take advantage of the unique opportunities abounding (see here for more details).
Sherwin Pomerantz is president of Atid-EDI Ltd., an economic development consulting firm with 26 years’ experience in assisting overseas companies and public entities in their export promotion and foreign direct investment attraction efforts.