Gov. Nathan Deal is wrapping up a five-day mission to Israel that included a delegation of state of Georgia officials and business leaders. The delegation visited Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Caesarea, Herzliya and Atlanta’s sister city of Ra’anana. The governor met with prominent members of government including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the mayor of Jerusalem to explore business and trade opportunities. The delegation also met with companies that have already invested in Georgia or are considering establishing a presence in Georgia.

“Israel is a vital partner in friendship and in our economic development efforts,” Deal said. “We are here to bolster our ties as we celebrate Georgia’s 20th year in the Israeli market and our long-standing commitment to the country.”

During the mission, Deal announced that Israel-based Haifa Group will build a new Controlled Release Fertilizer manufacturing facility in Savannah. Haifa is a leading global supplier of potassium nitrate, specialty plant nutrients and food phosphates, which help the agriculture industry. A $12 million investment, the new Controlled Release Fertilizer plant will create nearly 20 jobs.

“This new plant serves as a testament to the strength of Georgia’s advanced agriculture technology industry,” said Deal. “We fully expect that this new production facility will help establish our state as a center of advanced fertilizer technology, with farmers, nursery owners and professional turf experts across the country asking for our products.”

While in Israel, Georgia also recognized several outstanding Israeli companies for their respective partnerships with the state at the ‘Georgia: Destination for Global Success’ seminar. UPS was recognized for 20 years of service in economic development in Georgia. The Georgia Trade Champion award was presented to E.G.M. Investments Ltd.; the Peach Investor award was presented to Verint Systems; and the Strategic Georgia Partner Award was presented to the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce (FICC). Award finalists included Hewlett-Packard, Jacada Inc., AMDOCS, conexx: America Israel Business Connector (formerly known as American-Israel Chamber of Commerce) and Mussafi & Sons.

Deal and the delegation ended the mission with a reception and luncheon at UPS to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Georgia and Atlanta-based UPS in Israel. The governor presented UPS officials with a commendation congratulating them on their 20th anniversary in Israel. During the luncheon, the governor also announced that from 2012 to 2013, imports from Israel to Georgia increased by 71 percent and total trade increased by 46 percent.

To help increase exports to Israel and other countries, Georgia leveraged federal grant money to implement a program that attracts international buyers to Georgia. In the three years that Georgia has received this grant funding [STEP], the state has captured the interest of 38 buyers from such countries as Israel, Brazil, China, Germany, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Approximately a quarter of the buyers [26 percent] were from Israel. The Israeli buyers in this program were looking for products in a number of sectors, including aerospace, agriculture, and building and construction. In total, 140 Georgia companies from around the state met with the 10 Israeli buyers. As a result of these meetings, nearly $4 million worth of Georgia peanuts and pecans have been sold to Israelis, and the state expects additional sales in the future from these and other products. Of the nine countries represented in the program, Israel’s buyers were among the first to make purchases. Their purchases have been the largest of all countries to date and therefore have produced the greatest impact.

Since 1994, Israel and Georgia have had a long-established partnership through government, friendship, business, international trade, tourism and a variety of other avenues. Georgia ranked as the leading state in the Southeastern United States and eighth in the nation in terms of total trade with Israel in 2013. In fact, Israel is the leading Middle Eastern investor nation in Georgia. Delta Air Lines offers multiple daily flights from Atlanta to Tel Aviv via New York and Amsterdam. The Georgia Ports Authority in Savannah also has an established relationship with Israel, offering two weekly shipping services to the Port of Haifa and one to the Port of Ashdod.

“Georgia has a unique advantage with the Israeli Consulate General based in Atlanta and organizations like conexx: America Israel Business Connector,” said Chris Carr, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “These partners of ours, which work actively to promote a stronger relationship, provide key connections and demonstrate goodwill between our state and Israel.”

The mission aims to continue building on the relationships in Israel and to make new connections facilitating economic development and trade. The delegation participated in business meetings, met with Mayor Nir Barkat of Jerusalem and the U.S. Embassy and experienced cultural visits. The governor spoke at a dinner with a group of more than 250 Georgians who traveled to Israel with the American Jewish Federation of Atlanta.

The delegation includes First Lady Sandra Deal; Chris Carr – Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic development; Paul Bowers – President and CEO of Georgia Power; Chris Carpenter – Partner with the Garrett McNatt Hennessey & Carpenter 360 law firm; Seth Cohen – Director of Network Services with the Schusterman Philanthropic Network; Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald – Georgia Department of Public Health; Robert Hendricks – Senior Vice President, CIO and CTO at McKesson Technology Solutions; Chancellor Hank Huckaby – University System of Georgia; Marty Kogon – President of Pull-a-Part; Sally Levine – Executive Director of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust; Hala Moddelmog – President of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce; Jay Neely – Vice President of Law & Public Affairs at Gulfstream Aerospace; Joel Neuman – Vice President and Senior Managing Counsel with The Coca-Cola Co.; Sam Olens – Georgia Attorney General; Shai Robkin – President and CEO of Conexx.