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The math is hard to ignore: millions of dollars in expected contracts for Rhode Island-based companies at a public cost of $20,000 to cover the expenses of government officials supporting the effort.
That’s the expected profit from one company alone – Pawtucket’s Cooley Group – from a state-sponsored trade mission to Israel. Eleven local companies participated in last month’s nine-day excursion, sponsored by the R.I. Economic Development Corporation and the Chafee Center for International Business/World Trade Center at Bryant University.
Some firms, such as Cooley, were already doing business in Israel and used the trip to build on those connections. Others made their first contacts there. All eleven businesses came home with a sale, according to Chafee center Director Raymond Fogarty.
Fogarty is understandably sensitive to the perception of such government-sponsored trips as wasteful junkets. He noted in a story in this week’s edition that participants “squeezed themselves into coach”; and some business-related expenses involved in setting up meetings in Israel may be reimbursed.
It is hard to imagine, however, a more effective use of a relatively small amount of federal funding than to help generate contacts and business contracts that could pay off for years to come.
The bar has been set high for other planned trade missions, with China or Japan among the potential destinations. If the numbers add up similarly for those trips, the boost for Rhode Island exports will be well-worth the government expense. •