In accepting the prestigious 2006 Yitzhak Rabin Public Service Award, William R. McDermott — president and CEO, SAP America Inc., in Newtown Square — said that the honor represented one of the “proudest moments” of his professional and personal life.
The annual award is given by the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Central Atlantic Region, to an outstanding member of the business community who exemplifies the chamber’s mission to enhance relationships between the Central Atlantic Region and State of Israel.
It was presented to McDermott, head of the North American operations of SAP AG — the largest software solutions company in the world, headquartered in Germany — at an elegant AICC dinner ceremony attended by more than 300 supporters at the Rittenhouse earlier this year in Philadelphia.
The connection between SAP, Israel and the Delaware Valley includes SAP Labs Israel, a research-and-development facility that is a vital part of the company’s global-development network. It serves as a strategic hub for product development and employs more than 700 workers — a remarkable number considering SAP had an Israeli workforce of just 40 people as recently as 2001.
Also at the dinner, AICC’s Mayors’ Citations were presented to Igal Hami, president and CEO of Gil Tours Travel Inc. in Philadelphia, the largest trip producer for El Al Israel Airlines worldwide; and to Christopher D. Myers, vice president of advanced programs at Lockheed Martin Corporation in Moorestown, N.J., which has 10,000 Philadelphia-area employees.
Speaking before the awards were presented, AICC executive director Debbie Buchwald said that AICC is “a vehicle of opportunity for members, Israeli entrepreneurs, strategic partners, professionals and investors to identify their business objectives and realize their dreams.”
As ceremonies surrounding the awards began, AICC president and WolfBlock, LLP attorney-at-law David Gitlin offered several solid reasons why Israel is a good investment for U.S. companies.
“Israel has the highest ration of university degrees per capita in the world. It produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation by a large margin, and ranks third in the world in the number of patents filed,” he said.
“In proportion to its population,” added Gitlin, “Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world, and in absolute terms has the largest number of startup companies in the world outside the U.S.”
Israel also happens to rank No. 2 in the world in venture-capital funds, right behind the United States, according to Gitlin. Outside of the 50 states and Canada, Israel has the largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies — more than 100, while the top 10 Israeli publicly traded companies have a market cap of more than $41 billion.
“Israel’s gross domestic product climbed an impressive 5 percent in 2005, unemployment fell to a four-year low, and the budget deficit was cut in half,” stated Gitlin.
He called the accomplishments of McDermott, Hami and Myers “a shining reflection of this region’s business activities with Israel, and their achievements are a continued source of inspiration for what the future holds in store for Israel and our region, as well as for the countless supporters of AICC who strive to make an impact.”
McDermott, calling his award “one of the great honors” of his life, added that “it’s pretty humbling to be linked with the powerful memory of [former Israeli Prime Minister] Yitzhak Rabin … who fought so hard to bring stability to Israel and the Middle East, and who died trying to create a better world for so many people.”
Professionally, McDermott remarked, SAP’s strong ties to Israel — a recognized leader in technological innovation, and where SAP, the fastest-growing software company in the world, has the fourth largest research lab in the world — will continue.
For the past 34 years, Hami has been instrumental in marketing and promoting tourism to Israel from the Philadelphia region. Born in Israel, he came to Philadelphia in 1967, where he studied at the Philadelphia College of Textiles, now Philadelphia University, and where he launched his travel career by helping the government of Israel to promote tourism on campus.
As founder of Gil Tours Travel — an important partner in AICC’s efforts to encourage trade and investment — Hami is known throughout the city, state and country for his key role in helping major Jewish and non-Jewish organizations send their supporters to Israel.
He was instrumental in operating the Birthright Program, which has sent more than 50,000 students to Israel. He was a recipient of the State of Israel’s 50th Anniversary Travel and Tourism Award for service to Israel.
Myers, responsible at Lockheed for working with the Israeli Navy to evaluate the integration of Israeli technology into one of Lockheed’s advanced warships, and a combat decorated veteran naval officer of the Persian Gulf war was an elected council member of Medford Township, Burlington County, N.J.