RICHMOND – Virginia puts a special emphasis on economic ties with Israel, funding a board to foster economic growth here and abroad.
This year the Virginia-Israel Advisory Board and its small staff has a budget of about $175,000. Next year that's slated to increase, probably to $250,000, though the budgeting process is still underway.
The group liases with Israeli companies that want to open or expand here, and Virginia ones that want to operate in Israel. Within the last year the board helped broker a deal to partner Israeli companies with Virginia Tech, which will do research on agricultural projects Israeli companies may bring to southwest Virginia.
There's a particular focus on aquaculture, according to the board's website, which is raising fish and other aquatic organisms.
The board also takes some credit for helping Sabra open its new food research and development center in Chesterfield County last year. All in all, the board says it helped add 168 new jobs in Virginia during fiscal year 2013.
It has also been working — unsuccessfully so far — to get direct flights between Tel Aviv and Dulles Airport.
Virginia fosters economic ties with many countries, and it has trade offices in a number of them. But this tactic — a large appointed board with staff that splits time between Virginia and Israel – seems to be unique in state government. Del. Edward T. Scott, who chairs the House budget subcommittee that deals with commerce issues, said he doesn't know of another one.
Like other state-funded boards, the VIAB has to report annually on its activities and expenses. It also needs prior approval from the secretary of Commerce and Trade – under Gov. Terry McAuliffe that's former Virginian Pilot publisher Maurice Jones – for any travel and related expenses, according to state budget language.
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