Not all Utah trade missions have to result in increased exports to foreign trading partners. Some focus as much on opening a pipeline to bring foreign companies to the Beehive State.
Such was the case late in October when Moshe Yanai and his team visited Utah from Israel for a three-day inbound trade mission. Arranged by the Governor's Office of Economic Development and EDCUtah, the visit was one of the first fruits of Utah's trade mission to Israel and the West Bank, which Gov. Gary R. Herbert led last April.
Those in the data storage industry know Yanai from his days at EMC Corp., a data company that has Utah ties and a support center in Draper. While at EMC, Yanai led the development of the EMC Symmetrix, the company's flagship product.
"The industry looks at Moshe as the Steve Jobs of big data," says Vincent Mikolay, managing director of business outreach and international trade for GOED. "His company, Infinidat, specializes in really big data, petabytes of data. The company's technology is able to store four times as much information in the physical space of its servers and access that data at twice the speed of its competitors."
While in Israel, Yanai and Herbert became fast friends, Mikolay says. GOED Executive Director Spencer Eccles followed up that visit by inviting Yanai and his team to come to Utah. The state's growing data center industry seemed like the perfect fit for the company. "Infinidat is looking to expand in the United States, so we invited Moshe to discover Utah, not only for client potential, but ultimately to establish Infinidat's U.S. presence," says Mikolay. So, in October, GOED and EDCUtah led Yanai and his team on a three-day tour of all that Utah has to offer big data companies like Infinidat. The visit was a success, with Yanai's team back in Utah this week for additional follow-up meetings and some site selection activity.
"They are clearly considering having a presence in Utah at some point because of the inbound trade mission," Mikolay notes. "The impact of what they experienced when they were here, the great hospitality that was shown to them and the relationships they have developed with Gov. Herbert and Spencer Eccles has been very positive."
With the assistance of Teri Klug, EDCUtah's director of strategic development, GOED set up 12 meetings for Infinidat with leaders from the state's data center community, including the state's universities, tech companies and large data consumers. Those meetings yielded significant connections between Utah businesses and Infinidat. Yanai was invited to participate in Herbert's roundtable with CEOs from Utah high-tech companies and offered two keynote addresses, one during a breakfast event and the other at a data industry reception hosted by the Utah Data Center Consortium at the Leonardo museum.
The Infinidat team was also treated to a "Why Utah?" pitch in the Utah Office of Tourism, adds Mikolay. "They were exposed to the business, personal and social sides of all that Utah has to offer," he says.
The resulting comments from the Infinidat team were fantastic. "The visit was above and beyond anything they ever expected," Mikolay continues. "What they saw was an unprecedented working relationship between the state, GOED and EDCUtah. The entire Infinidat visit was seamless. And the graciousness of the people they met was incredible. People opened their doors and welcomed [Yanai] and his team with open arms. I think they were blown away by what they experienced."
In Israel and the West Bank, few government and business leaders had even heard of Utah. But Mikolay says once the Utah delegation arrived "and they saw what great people had come and how much they have in common with Utah, they were excited about the notion of this new-found, friendly land in Utah and its potential as a home or place to visit."
"It was a great experience that will yield some wonderful results," adds Klug. "The Infinidat visit was a big team effort between EDCUtah and GOED, and we have a wonderful partnership. Every element was mapped out exceptionally well, and we were able to forge a close relationship with the Infinidat team, which is the critical part. People want to do business with friends, not unknown entities. We forged real friendships, and that is what builds business."
Klug and Mikolay say they continue to connect with the Infinidat team by phone and through email. "Our job at GOED is to foster this relationship and facilitate those early state connections so that they have a landing pad in Utah," Mikolay adds. "[We] will continue to follow up with them, and I believe it will undoubtedly result in helping them locate here."
The Utah-Israeli connection has been strengthened by the assistance of David Siegel, consul general of Israel in Los Angeles. "He is a great friend of our office and can speak on behalf of Utah because he knows us so well," says Mikolay. "Siegel came to Utah to support the opening of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Leonardo and was able to visit with the Infinidat team while he was here."
Siegel also participated in Utah's trade mission to Israel and has become a key ally. "He offers the perspective of being from Israel and knowing what it takes to do business in the United States," Mikolay adds. "He's a great advocate for us."
The inbound trade mission to Utah by Infinidat will likely help GOED and EDCUtah make other connections with Israeli companies and serves as a model of how successful business recruiting is done. Mikolay says the Infinidat team expressed an eagerness to share their Utah story with business contacts back home.
"One of the key comments they made was that their partner companies and friends in Israel that are looking for U.S. operations need to know about Utah and how valuable the state is," he adds. "They were impressed and continued to comment about how state government works here, about how effective and efficient it is and how they have operated with other state governments but didn't experience the same level of success or cooperation. This is the beginning of an open channel to bring other Israeli companies to Utah."