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March 04, 1988 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-03-04

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enton Harbor —
An Israeli car manufacturing corn-
pany will bring its business to this
economically distressed city — a move
that state commerce officials said
should open a gateway for future
trade agreements between Michigan
and Israel.
Elkon Brothers Ltd. of Israel
and Entech Engineering of Troy an-
nounced in January they would build
the world's first automobile for hand-
icapped drivers in Benton Harbor,
promising at least 500 new jobs for
the financially strapped city in
southwest Michigan.
"When one business comes in,
others will follow," said Pauline
Jaques Millichamp, the Michigan
Department of Commerce liaison for
the automobile plant project. "This is
a really exciting project, but what
makes it more exciting is that the two
companies actually are committed to
helping Benton Harbor."
The car company would be the
first Israeli business to enter
Michigan since State Commerce
Director Doug Ross and Israel Trade
Commissioner David Litvak signed
a pact in January 1987 that estab-
lished ongoing commercial relations.
Ross said Israel produces more
technology than it needs. And Mich-
igan, he said, may be able to apply the
information so both Michigan and
Israel can reap benefits.
"We want to show how states and
businesses can take advantage of
Israel as another state," Ross said. "It
may also pave a path for Michigan
firms to enter Europe."
Meanwhile, state Rep. Burton
Leland, D-Detroit, is drafting legis-
lation to create a business exhange
called the Michigan/Israeli Commer-
cial Horizon. MICH, he said, would
solidify the 1987 agreement.
Leland started lobbying for a
business exchange with Israel after
he and Ross went to Israel last

A blighted corridor in downtown Benton Harbor.

Road to Recovery

An Israeli automobile may mean jobs and
prosperity for Benton Harbor, one of
Michigan's most depressed cities


Staff Writer

December. Thxas, Massachusetts and
Virginia have formed similar trade
Despite the recent attention given
to Benton Harbor, residents are skep-
tical. Other fancy proposals have
brought false job hopes, enhancing
their doubts that Elkon and Entech
will scrap the project.
"When they start laying the foun-
dation, then I'll be real happy;' Ben-
ton Harbor Mayor William Wolf said.
"We've had a lot of false hopes!'
Many residents are still talking
about famed prize fighter Mulim-

mad Ali, who owns a summer home
just south of the city. City and coun-
ty officials said Ali promised to help
save the economy with a multi-
million shoe polish factory. The fac-
tory was never built.
"I don't think there is anybody in
town who wouldn't be happy if the car
gets off the ground;' said Jeff Ibbian,
who owns a Benton Harbor-based
scrap metal business. "But so many
grandiose schemes come and go
around here, it is hard to believe
anything." Added Julie Keller, a
housewife and community activist,

"I'll beliee it when I see it!'
Company and government leaders
said the doubts are well-founded, but
added the residents have nothing to
fear. Chuck Schrent, economic devel-
opment director for Berrien County,
said such skepticism is not unusual,
but added he was optimistic the pro-
ject would break ground.
"Too many people have gone
there, saying they will fix it, and have
run away," said Entech President
Hulki Aldikacti. "We are not going
anywhere else!'
Aharon Meytahl, Elkon's execu-

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