Governors efforts help seal deals with Israeli firms

Now home from his whirlwind Israel trip, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger brought backmore than cheap touristy menorahs, knit yarmulkes and toy camel paraphernalia.

He also brought the announcement of five business deals that will either expand Israeli firms’ involvement in California, or bring them here for the first time, delivering as many as 1,000 jobs to the Golden State.

A subsequent Associated Press article claimed the governor grabbed credit for complex business arrangements that had been meticulously negotiated before he even took office. Yet more than one of the companies’ representatives told j. that a call in recent weeks from Schwarzenegger’s Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth cinched their decision to launch a new business venture in California and not elsewhere.

When choosing where to expand, “the two logical choices would have been Israel or California. We were in the planning capacity and hadn’t made a decision on the location,” said Tim Riley, vice president of marketing of the Israeli-owned network security company ForeScout Technologies, which is locally based in San Mateo.

The decision to stay in the Bay Area “was based on [the commission’s] contact with us and the offer to help us with any sort of permits we’d run into. There was a real commitment to put it in California.”

Zophar Sante, vice president of marketing for the Alameda-based Sanrad Ltd., said a call from Schwarzenegger’s representative “did spark our interest. We heard the governor was coming to Israel and wanted to [promote Israeli ties] in a way that actually promoted our company. And if Arnold Schwarzenegger promotes a company, it really promotes a company! It flipped the switch for us. If Arnold wants us to come, let’s go do it.”

In addition to ForeScout and Sanrad, the Israeli-owned Magal Security Systems of Fremont plans to expand its Bay Area presence. Also, the governor announced partnerships between Israel’s Netline Communications and Life Safety Systems of Santa Cruz, and Israel’s Arad Technologies and Sacramento-based USCL.

Tom Tamarkin, the president and CEO of USCL, said he’d been searching for an appropriate Israeli partner for more than a year and had been cooperating with Arad for about eight months. Tamarkin pushed his lawyers to accelerate the official signing of an agreement between Arad and USCL to early May, however, so a deal could be inked in Schwarzenegger’s presence during his Israel trip.

Tamarkin, who is Jewish, said the state offered him “whatever assistance we may require” when it came to obtaining permits or visas for foreign workers. He has not yet had any discussions regarding financial incentives such as tax breaks.

Vince Sollitto, a deputy press secretary in the governor’s office, said the five Israeli-California business deals were intended as “examples that this can be done, so let’s get more.” And Tamarkin is happy to serve as an example.

“We’re glad to be a part of this process,” said Tamarkin, who has utilized Israeli radio transceiver technology to create an energy management system that gives consumers up-to-the-minute readouts of their energy costs.

“Many of our stockholders are Jewish and have strong allegiances to Israel. We were delighted to learn of the governor’s commitment to Israel. That certainly was reassuring.”

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.