As published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on January 12:
Simlat, an Israeli company that provides training services for operating unmanned vehicles, just opened an office in Philadelphia last week. The business didn’t balk at the announced closure of the Israeli consulate in Philadelphia, one of six consulates closed by Israel across the world as a cost-cutting measure.
The Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce remains an advocate for trade between Philadelphia and Israel, and they are poised to take on more responsibility in the region with the consulate’s closure.
“I will be sad to see the consulate close,” said Vered Nohi, the executive director of the PICC. “The ecosystem here is the reason for Israeli companies to open an office here. Israeli companies open offices in various areas in the U.S. whether there is a consulate or not.”
Nevertheless, the PICC put out an open letter late last week condemning the consulate’s closure.
For decades, the PICC has worked hand-in-hand with the Israeli consulate in Philadelphia to accelerate business, academic and commercial ties between Israel and the Greater Philadelphia region.
We reaffirm our position that while a closure would, no doubt, be a blow to our region, it will be an even greater loss to Israel, its citizens, institutions and businesses […] The vacuum that would be created by closing the Consulate would undermine historically strong ties between Israel, and Greater Philadelphia, Southern New Jersey and Delaware, as well as states the PICC does not serve.
Simlat and Pango, a Israeli-based tech company that recently launched a mobile parking app in the region, are two firms that were recruited to Philadelphia by former Mayor Michael Nutter in 2013. It was the first of two trade missions made by the city’s last leader.
Since Nutter’s most recent trade mission last July, Israel has cut direct flights between Tel Aviv and PHL Airport and now closed the consulate. Philadelphia’s new Mayor Jim Kenney has expressed an agenda that doesn’t prioritize international missions, although Israel’s other consulate closures appear to indicate Philadelphia wasn’t singled out for any reason.
“[The consulate] helps augment that sense of community when you’re plugging into a network here,” a former Nutter aide said, lamenting its closure. “It wasn’t always the case that [international companies] had known about Philadelphia as a potential location, but I think that’s a growing area for Philadelphia. I think the new administration will absolutely continue that trend.”
Dan Norton covers technology and education for the Philadelphia Business Journal.