SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Gov. Gary Herbert says his weeklong trade mission to Israel to promote Utah as a business and tourism destination exceeded his expectations.
Herbert told reporters about his trip during a news conference at the state Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.
"But, there clearly is a desire on their part to have not only open diplomatic relationships with the and Utah, but they clearly want to grow their economy and have a healthier better quality of life and healthier economy," Herbert said.
Herbert flew to the country last week with a contingent of Utah business people who paid their own costs, including Natalie Kaddas, who's family-owned company manufactures plastics that electric companies use.
"There's a lot of opportunity for our company. We met with five independent sales representatives, who work directly with the Israeli electric company," Kaddas said.
The trade mission to Israel wasn't just about trading products with each other— Utah already exports about $50 million worth of items to Israel. But establishing good relationships casts a wider net for future educational, cultural and tourism opportunities.
The trip wrapped up Monday after visits to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and meetings with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Herbert also visited the West Bank and met with the outgoing Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad.
Fayyad indicated that he wants to return the visit and bring a delegation of Palestinian business leaders to Utah, Herbert said.
"And I'm pleased to find, I didn't know it before, that I'm the first governor to take a trade delegation to the West Bank," Herbert said.
Herbert's trip was initially scheduled for last December but canceled due to security risks associated with unrest on the Gaza Strip.
The trip was important to explore research and development in Israel, promote business and tourism ties to Utah and establish diplomatic relationships, he said.
"I believe that over years to come, we're going to see some significant benefit from this trade mission," Herbert said.
The head of one Israeli startup, a data storage company called Infinidat, expressed an interest in opening a data center in Utah, said Mel Lavitt, chariman of the board of the Governor's Office of Economic Development.
"I think that we will see other Israeli companies knocking on our door, and something that will continue, and we'll work hard to make it happen," Lavitt said.
Utah's young, tech-savvy and multilingual population makes it a great market for foreign companies, such as those from Israel, but the state needs to make sure it's getting that message out there, Herbert said.
Contributing: Keith McCord