Montana World Affairs Council: Cultivation leads to economic development

Robert Seidenschwarz

Recently you may have read about an Israeli company (4Cast) that will be opening a new office in Missoula. It’s expected that as a result of this, eventually, over 100 jobs will be added and become part of the Missoula work force. This is a first for Missoula and maybe Montana to have an Israeli company open a new office in Montana.

Many of you are probably familiar with the World Affairs Council’s outstanding Distinguished Speakers Programs, Council in the Classroom, Business Luncheon series, and Council on the Radio, hosted by yours truly.

But did you know about visits to our local high schools by world class leaders who engage the students in discussions on compelling global issues? The objective is to expose students to the challenges and opportunities which may exist for them. In addition to the above, the council has served an important but less visible role in facilitating the development of business relationships between Montana and our visiting guests.

Several years ago, Israeli Consul General Andy David made his very first visit to Missoula. David initially reached out to the Montana World Affairs Council, on a recommendation and endorsement that the council was as an organization worthy of establishing initial relationships with.

It was suggested that the council would be able to make introductions to the community on David’s behalf. He had been told that the council could help to get things done – meet the mayor, set up a business luncheon, offer a distinguished speakers program, and speak to 25,000 Montanans on the radio program.

When the consul general visited, he was, as he put it, “blown away” by the scenery. But what he didn’t expect or anticipate was the warmth and openness of the many Missoulians that he met. He said at the time that it felt like home, that he was back in Israel.

David had several objectives for his trip. His primary objective was to develop business relationships between Montana and Israel. At the completion of his first trip, he asked, “What do I have to do to build relations between Israel and Montana?” I responded, “Andy, you need to commit to coming back to Montana. Montanans need to see you, they need to develop a relationship with you.”

With that, David did return to Missoula, again and again and again. The council introduced him to the Montana World Trade Center and to Missoula Economic Partnership. We helped make the proper introductions to officials at the governor’s office as well.

David, with the cooperation of Paul Gladen from the Blackstone LaunchPad team at the University of Montana, did a presentation on Israel’s secret sauce for business success. This was the essence of Israeli business success, the collaboration between the private and public sector. It was this cooperation and networking that went on in Missoula, that led to the Montana World Trade Center sponsoring a trade mission of Montana businesses to Israel. The rest as they say, is history.

In recent months Raanan Aden, one of Israeli’s leading water experts, has made three trips to Montana in the last several months. He sees unlimited opportunity for business development between Israel, the world’s leader in water technology and innovation, and Montana. Raanan and his Montana based partner Chad Miller have received support from Israel to build a Hydroponic facility in Florence, Mt. that will produce organic vegetables and herbs delivered straight to Montana consumers. This facility will use the most advanced water and renewable energy technology to operate year-round.

In reality, no one organization can do it alone. It takes the efforts of many to bring about these results. The Montana World Affairs Council will continue to play a pivotal role in cultural and business development for the benefit of Missoula and Montana. Your generous support makes it possible for the council to continue this work. We’re are just getting started Missoula.

Robert Seidenschwarz is President Emeritus of the Montana World Affairs Council and lives in Missoula.