With many Israeli companies looking to relocate to offshore states such as New York or California, the Michigan Israel Business Accelerator (MBA) is reminding them that there are other states that can meet the Startup Nation’s business needs. Specifically, The Great Lakes State is opening a new hub, The Lift, in Detroit’s Globe building to serve as a co-working space, mailing address or networking hub for Israelis looking to do business in the United States.
“Israeli companies often want to have a landing pad or set up shop,” said Bernard Bourgeois, director of ecosystem development at MIBA. “Somehow, unfortunately, they don’t seem to have Michigan at the top of their agenda. They go to New York or Silicon Valley. Michigan has great advantages including government support, it’s very cheap to live there, it’s close to Canada, it’s in the middle of the country, and it’s the leading manufacturing in America.
MIBA is a non-profit economic development organization established in 2017 to foster partnerships between Israeli and Michigan businesses. Its main mission is to bring economic growth and job creation to the government, and it sees Israel as a partner that can help its needs. While Michigan is mostly known as an automotive hub, the state boasts several focus areas such as mobility, defense, advanced manufacturing, food and agtech, sustainability tech and health technology.
Since its inception, it has facilitated the connections of more than 2,000 Israeli companies with partners from across the state and facilitated 51 collaborations that brought Israeli technologies and economic activity to Michigan. These collaborations have included initiatives as diverse as expansions, pilot programs and accelerator partnerships.
While the automotive industry dominates the state, manufacturing accounts for 20 percent of Michigan’s gross domestic product, and the state ranks first in the U.S. overall in military production, accounting for 37 percent of all contracts in the nation. It ranks second in the agricultural sector, and agriculture employs more than one million people and contributes $104 billion to the region’s economy. MIBA hosts quarterly sector-focused webinars to showcase Israeli innovation in the state, and promotes them in internal documents such as newspapers to help highlight their growing presence in these industries.
“The strategic partnership between Michigan and Israel has created a dynamic environment that fosters innovation, entrepreneurship and mutual prosperity,” added MIBA CEO Scott Hipaka. “The launch of the elevator takes this relationship to the next level, and we look forward to the transformative opportunities it will bring to Israeli startups and Michigan businesses.”
Nowadays, there are several companies that are using Michigan as a hub for business. Mobileye operates an office in Southfield that focuses on developing and testing automotive technologies, and Orcam Technologies has an office in Ann Arbor. GuardKnox has grown from two initial business development ventures into a separate US company and is one of Lyft’s founding members.
The hope is that the new center will allow young Israeli companies to choose where to expand and have access to corporate mentors, experts and preferred resources such as legal, marketing and accounting, as well as networking opportunities and conferences.
“At the end of the day, we’re relatable,” Bourgeois said. “We are the link between companies and governments and we are popular with our delegates.” Over the years MIBA has hosted many delegations from Israel. Partnerships in the state include FARM Incubator, Industry4.0 Accelerator and Health Tech Collaborative.
According to MIBA, many Israeli companies were once convinced to visit Michigan but now see advantages that may not be available today in states like California. While Detroit was ranked as the #1 global startup ecosystem by Startup Genome in 2022, California’s population declined that year for the first time in over a century. “Their experience in California was disappointing,” Bourgeois said of a delegation that recently visited the Golden State. “It’s funny to see the evolution. Before the outbreak… we had to beg them to come to Detroit for a day. At this time, we started to organize this and California had to beg for the discussion. It’s from us to ask why people don’t come to Michigan, why they don’t want to.
When Lyft launches, MIBA hopes Israelis will see the appeal of expanding to a more central and diverse state than the alternatives. “I am extremely proud to be a part of Michigan’s vibrant business scene,” said MBA Board Chair Matt Elliott. “With this announcement, MIBA is taking a giant leap toward our vision to position Michigan as a leading partner for Israeli innovation in America.”