Q&A: Uri Attir on how Dayton-Israel alliance is helping revive the region
Dayton is emerging as Ohio's center for high-tech development, particularly in the aerospace industry. How is the Dayton Region-Israel Trade Alliance (DRITA) growing the region's high-tech sector?
The Dayton region is a unique city in terms of economic development. As a result of the last few hard years in the area, organizations and political leaders saw the need to beef up and stimulate the economy in Dayton. In a progressive way, those in charge of strategy came to the realization that the way to stimulate development in Dayton was to import technology. They've taken advantage of business opportunities through technological development -- to stimulate the economy and eventually build jobs in that sector.
This imported technology can come from other states, or it can come from other countries. Dayton thought it might as well come from further away. In 2009, Dayton-area development leaders staged a mission to Israel, then a reverse mission of Israeli companies to Dayton. They concluded that the best place to form a trade alliance would be in Israel, and that the best way to do that would be to form DRITA and hire someone in Israel.
My job is funded by the Montgomery County Community Improvement Corporation
. It's mostly private money, not county or city or state money, but MCCIC funds. This is a coalition of three groups who got together: the city of Dayton, Montgomery County and the Dayton Development Coalition
. I work from Haifa, the third largest city in Israel known as one of Israel's technology development centers. What made you the ideal candidate for the business direction of DRITA in Israel?
From 1998 to 2006, I served as business development manager for the Binational Israel Research and Development Foundation
(BIRD), which was funded by a $160 million endowment equally contributed by Israel and the United States to develop international R&D and business opportunities. I was a matchmaker, looking for new Israeli companies to match with larger U.S. companies. What strategies have the Dayton-area leaders, as well as members of the academic and business communities, implemented to create this growth opportunity for their high-tech sector?
There are a lot of U.S.-Israel collaborations, but this is the first time that a relatively small community in Southwestern Ohio has put people to work on such a relationship. That's the first strategy -- to put people and not just resources to work. Second, they've looked at specific market areas, economic areas that they are strong in. For Dayton, one area is aerospace, aeronautics innovation. Their third strategy is not to try to do anything and everything, but to focus on the regional strengths that have the best chance of succeeding in international markets. Finally, building business-to-business relationships on the ground between the two regions is important. This strategy builds business to business relationships on a micro level. When you know which areas you're going to look at and you know you're going to go to specific company, then you have a strategy.Can you give any statistics on DRITA's tangible benefits to the region: job creation, new contracts or facilities in development?
The success stories are still in the making. If an Israeli UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) company decides to set up a subsidiary in Dayton, it might employ 300 to 400 people. That's the ultimate goal. But it's not so easy. There are three or four candidate companies for this type of goal to build the next plant or factory that develops. Without getting too specific, because of the sensitive nature of the development work, an Israeli company partners with a U.S. company to bid on vendors for technology projects in certain areas, including contracts with the Department of Defense and the United States Air Force. Some Dayton companies are setting up training in Israel. Hartzell Propellers os working with ELBIT Systems on the Israeli side on a joint R&D project that could lead to a co-manufacturing development. You've said that Dayton has a unique collective strength, a "synergy in work between academia and industry." How important is such an environment for a city wishing to build business and development in a high-tech field?
Any given city, whether in Israel or in Dayton, is nurtured from different sources. Not only from industrial plants, but complementary resources coming from academia, especially one which focuses on applied sciences. When an Israeli company comes to Dayton, aside from telling the company that the city's centrally located, it's also good for the Israeli company to know that if you need R&D resources you can get them from the academic institutions in the area; that you can get highly trained labor. Dayton's whole environment is the environment of science and technology. Wright State
, University of Dayton
, AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory
) are all attractive magnets.