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Israeli government minister tours Columbus factory

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Israel’s infrastructure minister said he was pleased with the quality of workers he met Tuesday while touring an Israeli-owned factory in Mississippi.

Uzi Landau visited Stark Aerospace, which manufactures military drones in Columbus, Miss. The company employs about 115 people and is a subsidiary of Israeli Aerospace Industries.

“When I met the chief executive of Stark Aerospace and when he spoke with such pride, the smile — when you could look around and see how proud the workers themselves are of what they do, you really don’t have to ask questions,” Landau said. “You just have to get the impression.”

The cabinet minister spoke at a news conference in Jackson after meeting with Gov. Haley Barbour and Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

Landau said the drones made at Stark “are quite a substantial help of the battle that you carry in the name of the entire free world against international terror in Afghanistan.”

Landau’s praise of the workers at Stark gave Barbour an opening to give his usual sales pitch for the state.

“They’re great employees, they give a day’s work for a day’s pay and more,” Barbour said in a conference room with tiny flags of Israel, Mississippi and the United States displayed together.

Mississippi Development Authority director Gray Swoope said the state is trying to expand its high-tech business connections with Israel.

“You think about a small country that’s a little over two times the size of the state of Mississippi and the entrepreneurial power, the economic power they have — for us to have a relationship as a state goes a long way,” Swoope said.

MDA officials participated in the Israeli Space Show in January and the agency said it developed a relationship with the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service in Tel Aviv.

Opher Aviran, Israel’s consul general to the southeastern United States, traveled to Mississippi in early September to meet with Hosemann. Aviran accompanied Landau on Tuesday and said the minister is also planning to tour two factories in California and one in Pennsylvania. Officials said Landau’s trip to the United States is funded by the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation, which encourages business connections between the two countries.

Landau sought a play on words as he asked Barbour to visit Israel, calling the request “the State of the Bible’s invitation to the governor of Mississippi, of the Bible Belt here.”

Source: Associated Press

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