The Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County is pursuing international connections for the area following an innovation and entrepreneurship exchange in Israel and Germany in late June.

CEO John Sternlicht was one of a handful of economic development stakeholders from the U.S. chosen to participate in the exchange.

Sternlicht traveled to Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, Berlin and Dresden to meet with innovation leaders from private business, government, and nonprofit sectors in order to forge international partnerships.

The exchange, called the Americas Competitiveness Exchange, was created in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of State and the Organization of American States, Maryse Robert, director of Economic Development at the Organization of American States, said in an email.

During the weeklong tour, participants explored innovation hubs, advanced technology centers and education and research institutions.

“You meet people from other countries and you find things in common you want to work on,” Sternlicht said.

Sternlicht said he went into the exchange looking for regions with similar industries that may make good partners.

After meeting his economic development counterpart in Saxony, Germany, Sternlicht said he discovered many commonalities between the region and Skagit — including large advanced manufacturing, aerospace and maritime industries.

Saxony is also similar to Skagit demographically, Sternlicht said.

In Israel, Sternlicht said he was looking for contacts in agricultural and clean technology.

“We found a number of them we want to follow up with with to collaborate with companies here, to supply companies here and also to see if — as they expand into the North American market — they may want to expand here,” he said.

Sternlicht also used the exchange to build bridges with Canadian stakeholders.

“Canada is a really good option for us,” he said. “It’s a big part of our global plan.”

The exchange brought together a total of 50 senior-level government, business, policy and economic decision makers from across the Americas and beyond, Robert said in an email.

“I’m excited that all those folks now know where Skagit County is and that I met people with similar interests to follow-up on,” Sternlicht said.

— Reporter Julia-Grace Sanders: 360-416-2145,, Twitter: @JuliaGrace_SVH

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