Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jerusalem Becoming World-Class Bio-technology Center

Hillel Fendel

Ron Tuttnauer, Chairman of the Manufacturers Association in the Jerusalem District, says that Jerusalem is quickly becoming a world-class center for bio-technology. Tuttnauer provided statistics and information on the status of industry in Jerusalem, at a ceremony in honor of Jerusalem Industry Day.Tuttnauer predicted that the forecasted arrival of two leading bio-technological companies would increase the number of employees in this field to 4,000 within five years, making Jerusalem a world center.

Jerusalem is currently one of the most important bio-technological centers in Israel, Tuttnauer informed his listeners. More than 3,000 people are employed in some 100 bio-tech and life-science businesses in the capital.

Overall, Jerusalem businesses exported over six billion shekels worth of products in 2007, and this number is expected rise by 8% this year.

He said that the government now plans to prevent Arabs from the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas from entering the Atarot industrial zone in northern Jerusalem, beginning this coming October. This decision will cause "tens of factories" to close, he said, because of the loss of manpower.

At the same time, Tuttnauer noted that the percentage of hareidi-religious Jews employed in Jerusalem industry is rising at a 10% annual rate. He said that some 2,600 hareidim are employed in 64% of the approximately 400 factories in the Jerusalem area.

Dollar-Drop Hits Jerusalem Hard
The plunge of the dollar has hit Jerusalem very badly, Tuttnauer reported. The devaluation of the dollar has caused profit erosion to 69% of the factories, another 27% of them stopped planned investments, and 9% have stopped hiring new workers. Two-fifths of the businesses report a drop of up to 50% in their exports this year. A fifth of the plants plan to establish a sister plant abroad, or transfer a production line out of the country, in the coming year.

Tuttnauer had rosy words to say about the new immigrants from France, who he said are "conquering the city." He said that some 2,000 French Jews had moved into Jerusalem over the past two years, opening 30 new businesses and factories in the fields of computerization, communications and information. Some 1,000 people are employed in these businesses, most of which are businesses from abroad or chapters thereof.

$33 Million Needed
Tuttnauer called upon the government and city to reach out to investors and business owners with benefits and incentives. He also said that the city must find an area of some 500 dunams (125 acres) for the new bio-tech companies.

All in all, Tuttnauer estimates the required government investment for bio-tech growth in Jerusalem at 110 million shekels ($33.3 million) over the course of five years.

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