Key takeaways for Lamont during Israel business development trip


NEW HAVEN — Reflecting on his recent trip to Israel, in which the goal was to promote business expansion and partnerships with Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday that the laboratory-grown chicken tasted like…chicken.

So maybe Connecticut’s future includes producing beef and chicken from stem cells in a high-tech, low methane-generating way to satisfy consumer demand for meat in the 21st Century, he said.

“This cultured meat and chicken is fascinating to me,” Lamont told told reporters during a morning news conference in the offices of the quasi-public Connecticut Innovations Inc.


“You were growing 10 pounds of prime beef or chicken starting out in a petri dish. Necessity is the mother of invention. Israel doesn’t have a lot of land. They don’t have a lot of water, but they like meat and chicken, so here’s your opportunity to develop 10 pounds of prime beef without water, without acres of land, without any of that environmental devastation. They’ve got some preliminary approvals about it and they are very interested in Connecticut.”

That was one highlight in the flurry of activity where the governor’s delegation met with venture capitalists, government officials, start-ups, accelerators, and thought leaders.

Lamont said the week-long excursion gave his team, including interim University of Connecticut President Radenka Maric, Matt McCooe, CEO of Connecticut Innovations Inc., and Commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development David Lehman a chance to tout Connecticut’s position on the East Coast, its proximity to New York airports, its Jewish population and its interest in providing companies with 50 to 75 employees a chance to grow in the state.

“We now have the relationships with the folks that know all the entrepreneurs, the folks that know all the small businesses, the folks that are funding them, the venture capital firms,” he said. “We met with each and every one of them. It could be that Connecticut Innovations is going to co-invest in some of these. It’s not a guarantee that they come to Connecticut, but Connecticut is on the radar screen. I think that’s a new way of doing it and it’s incredibly important.”

Aerospace and defense industries were also part of the conversation, along with health care, cryptocurrency and UConn’s relationship with Technion Univerity in Israel. The group from Connecticut included personnel from Raytheon, Hartford HealthCare, and the Digital Currency Group, the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut.

Lehman said at least two firms — Future Meat and Aleph Farms — are contemplating imminent $75 and $150 million capital investments within the next six months. In Israel, there’s a fast-moving economic atmosphere where the government is transitioning away from the authoritarian regime of Benjamin Netanyahu, thanks to a more-diverse government that is including more of a voice for Palestinians. Lamont said Connecticut’s support of diversity includes more opportunities for woman as well.

“I can tell you that Prime Minister (Naftali) Bennett was proud that they have such a diverse coalition,” said Lamont, who became the first Connecticut governor to visit Israel since the 1990s. “Ironically, he’s proud of the fact that it’s representative of the Arab-Muslim party is the deciding vote only because the margins are so thin.”

The next thing to do is follow-up. “We’re not leading with incentives, but if you want to come to the great state of Connecticut, come,” Lamont said. “We’re going to roll out the red carpet for you just like you rolled-out the red carpet for us.”

Lehman said Connecticut Innovations has made direct investments in Israel, while another tool is to help invest. The state is selling its proximity to New York airports and Northeast markets, the cost of doing business, the 3.3 percent Jewish population here and its family-friend lifestyle.

“This year we’ll probably invest between $45 and $50 million into 100-plus investment opportunities and companies, of which a very small percentage are Israeli,” McCooe said.

The three-pronged goal is to bring companies to Connecticut, help companies already here and returns.

“If we invest $1 million in an entrepreneur, we want to get back two, three, four, five million dollars,” McCooe said. “And that allows us to invest in the next five entrepreneurs.”

The governor said the “most-moving hour of my life” occurred at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, where he joined in a lighting ceremony of the Eternal Flame. The various trips in the nation of 9 million people included meetings with Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog, and Dr. Salman Zarka, Israel’s chief COVID-19 officer.

The issue of diversity came up during the meeting with Bennett, who Lamont said agreed with the current moment in which people who might not have had much workplace opportunities in the past, can now reap the fruits of the openings in the workforce both in Israel and the United States, where skilled employees are needed.

“We compared notes about how this is an extraordinary opportunity to lift up people who’ve never had that opportunity before,” Lamont said, adding that Palestinians, Israeli-Arabs, Muslims and Orthodox Jews now have more opportunities in Israel.

When asked what the lab-grown meat tasted like, Lamont laughed and recalled the company officials who accompanied the Connecticut delegation on their tour of the laboratory.

“I had the chicken and they’re all watching. I said it was really good. I thought it was tasty. I pretended to gag for a minute to get their attention, but it’s really good. I think, believe it or not, it’s got a future.”

kdixon@ctpost.com Twitter: @KenDixonCT



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