Tampa Mayor Buckhorn traveling to Israel, but not Palestine listen11/16/11 Janelle Irwin
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As Tampa continues to struggle with the rest of the country to find jobs for its citizens, Mayor Bob Buckhorn is reaching out to Israel. During a press conference Tuesday night the Mayor provided details about his trip.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he is traveling to Israel to strengthen relationships with the country in an effort to attract businesses to the area. For example, a lot of the equipment that will be used in USF’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation facility when it opens in the downtown district are of Israeli origin.
“The Israelis have pioneered many of the same types of technology that we could use here in the state of Florida and specifically in the city of Tampa. This trip is going to be an opportunity for us to share some of our knowledge, but more importantly, to gleam knowledge from the Israelis on things like electric cars, or things like desalination, or things like robotics and simulation. I mean the Israeli economy and the Israeli technologists have fueled the robotics and simulation industry around the world.”
And Buckhorn said the city already has strong ties to the country through the Jewish community that give the partnership a strong beginning.
“You know, I get a chance as mayor to do a lot of great things and this will be one of the highlights so far of my time. To establish that one on one relationship with our Israeli colleagues in a political and business world and to start to build that bridge and to start to send a message about how welcome Israeli companies are in the state of Florida, how much we want to be partners with them in the business community and to strengthen long-standing relationships between our Jewish community and the state of Israel.”
Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen will accompany the Mayor on his week long trip that began today. Cohen said he hopes to return with insight into how to bring successful desalination plans back to the city.
“Chairman [Charlie] Miranda reminds us constantly of the fact that we have significant needs for fresh water in this community. The Mayor mentioned the desalination technology. I’m particularly interested and looking forward to learning about how desalination can be done effectively. Obviously we’ve had a lot of checkered history with desalination here in this area and its something that we’re going to need to do going forward if we’re going to continue to grow.”
The Mayor and his entourage will visit Tampa’s sister city, Ashod. They are presenting the port city with $108,000 compliments of the Tampa Jewish Federation. That money is intended to support renovations to a bomb shelter that serves senior citizens seeking shelter from rockets targeted to the city from the Gaza Strip. WMNF asked Buckhorn whether he would be visiting Palestine or addressing the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
“This is not a political trip for me. This is all about economic opportunity, it’s all about job creation, it’s all about furthering those relationships. I will be back to Israel, I can promise you that. But at this venture, people elected me to change the economic DNA of this community and the only way we can do that is to transition from an old economy to a new economy and the state of Israel is really right now, the hot bed of those types of technologies and those types of industries and that’s why I’m going.”
And Herb Swarzman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said it was Israel’s success with businesses that piqued Buckhorn’s interest in visiting.
“Council General Ofra Bovrie spoke about Israel’s innovative companies and I think the Mayor was intrigued and I think that’s one of the reasons why he feels this is a worth while endeavor, to bring some of these ideas back to Tampa. So, we have a terrific itinerary to give him a flavor of Israel, but also to make sure that he gets an opportunity to see many of these companies. And for those of you who don’t know how far Israel has come, there are more Israeli companies listed on NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange than any other country in the world except the United States.”
After the press conference, Swarzman added that solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be found by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Buckhorn’s travel expenses, estimated at around $4,000, will be paid though city funding, but council member Cohen will be footing his own bill.
“Look, we’ve had a tough budget year in this city. And I think we’re all sensitive to being very careful in the way that we spend taxpayer dollars. And I wanted to go with the Mayor, I wanted to take the trip, but I just thought it was better to pay for it myself.”
City Attorney Jim Shimberg will also be traveling to Israel at his own expense. The group is set to return next Tuesday.