After spending last week in Germany pitching New Jersey as a prime location for startups and other companies looking to establish roots in the U.S., Gov. Phil Murphy is making a similar case this week to business leaders in Israel.
The second leg of Murphy’s nine-day overseas trip kicked off over the weekend in Jerusalem. There, the governor announced a new partnership yesterday with the Israeli state’s Innovation Authority, according to the latest updates provided by Murphy’s office and Choose New Jersey, the group that’s sponsoring the trip.
The economic mission is the Democratic governor’s first official overseas excursion representing New Jersey since he took office in early January. He has described it as part of a broader effort to recast the Garden State as a prime location for emerging technology and innovation.
In Germany last week, Murphy announced the opening of a new European office for Choose New Jersey, a privately-funded but state-affiliated business-promotion organization that is funding the overseas trip. He also signed an apprenticeship agreement between the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce and inked a new partnership deal with the mayor of Berlin.
New questions for the governor
But Murphy’s trip has also coincided with a still-developing scandal back home involving the administration’s hiring practices and the recent resignation of a key official accused of sexually assaulting a fellow staffer during the governor’s 2017 gubernatorial campaign. Lawmakers last week announced the formation of a special investigative committee to review that case and sexual-harassment policies. And the governor is likely to face new questions about the actions of his administration once he returns to the state later this week.
Murphy started the overseas trip in Berlin, which is where Choose New Jersey’s new European office will be located. The office marks the state’s first official presence in Europe in more than five years, and it will be used to pitch New Jersey as a place for European companies that are looking to expand into the U.S. to locate their offices.
“Whether you are a manufacturer, biotech or technology start-up, European companies seeking to expand are finding that New Jersey has the talented workforce, expertise and the access to U.S. markets they need to grow successfully,” said Jose Lozano, the president and chief executive of Choose NJ.
Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt
Following the stop in Berlin, Murphy moved on to Hamburg, where he visited with officials from EnBW, an offshore-wind company that is opening an office in Jersey City later this year. From there, Murphy — who served as U.S. ambassador to Germany during the tenure of former President Barack Obama — went to the cities of Frankfurt and Darmstadt, where he announced a new cybersecurity agreement involving the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the German-based cybersecurity startup community known as Digital Hub. The agreement calls for the two entities to conduct research together and permits their cybersecurity experts to collaborate on major projects.
The German leg of the mission ended with a return to Berlin, where Murphy announced the apprenticeship agreement between the state labor department and the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce. The agreement allows the two organizations to share best practices and to partner with German businesses that are operating in New Jersey and that have apprenticeship opportunities available to state residents.
“This partnership will lead the way for us to expand apprenticeship to sectors that are vital to New Jersey’s economy such as transportation and logistics, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, clean energy and more,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.
Murphy also signed a formal memorandum of understanding with the mayor of Berlin, Michael Muller, to strengthen information-sharing between New Jersey and Berlin, which is becoming a leading tech hub in Germany. In fact, Newark-based Audible Inc. has an office in Berlin that boasts 200 employees; Audible chief executive Don Katz was with Murphy as he signed the agreement with Muller. Though not a legally binding contract, such agreements lay out specific policy goals, which in this case includes working together to foster stronger tech ecosystems in both locations.
‘…one of the most exciting things’
Nikki Ouellette, the chief marketing officer for Choose New Jersey, called the signing of the formal agreement with Berlin “one of the most exciting things” that happened in Germany last week.
“We didn’t think it was going to happen and the governing mayor made it happen and we were very pleased about that,” Ouellette said.
Murphy’s public agenda for the trip resumed yesterday in Israel, with the announcement of a memorandum of understanding with the Israeli Innovation Authority, which is set up to help sustain the country’s knowledge economy and its reputation as the “startup nation.” Like the agreement signed in Berlin, this one will allow for stronger links to be developed between the Innovation Authority and New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority, including setting the framework for more cooperation on technology issues.
“The Garden State and Israel both have economies deeply rooted in innovation as well as brilliant scientists, researchers, and academic minds doing ground-breaking work across a broad spectrum of high-growth sectors,” Murphy said. “The New Jersey-Israel relationship already generates more than $1 billion in annual shared economic activity and we hope that, as a result of this MOU, that number will double, if not triple, in the years ahead.”
New twist on time-honored trip
He also met yesterday with business leaders from Teva Pharmaceuticals, an Israel-based company that will be opening a new U.S. headquarters in Morris County.
The governor has several other events scheduled in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv before he is due to return to New Jersey on Wednesday. He was not scheduled to visit any of the Palestinian territories, officials said.
Among those travelling with the governor have been top officials from the state Economic Development Authority, including chief executive Tim Sullivan and Wes Matthews, the agency’s vice president of international trade and investment. First Lady Tammy Murphy and several top officials from the governor’s office have also accompanied Murphy, along with Lozano and several officials from Choose New Jersey.
By going to both Germany and Israel, Murphy has put a new twist on the time-honored tradition of New Jersey governors choosing to visit Israel for an official overseas excursion. Former Govs. Christie Whitman, Jim McGreevey, Jon Corzine and Chris Christie all took formal trips to Israel while in office.
Ouellette said the two locations are both known for their tech and innovation sectors, helping to make the trade mission “very, very innovation focused.”