Barry Bogage

Barry Bogage, executive director of the Maryland Israel Development Center (Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston / August 17, 2011)

The Maryland/Israel Development Center sees itself as a matchmaker — not of a romantic kind but an economic one.

For the past 19 years, the nonprofit group in Baltimore has been connecting Maryland companies with Israeli partners to promote trade and investments.

Most recently, MIDC helped secure funding for two Maryland companies to do business with Israeli firms through the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation. Direct Dimensions is a 3-D imaging technology firm in Owings Mills and Ariadne is a biotech software company in Rockville.

This year, MIDC also established a for-profit arm to invest in Israeli startups through a new venture capital fund.

The Baltimore Sun spoke with Barry Bogage, founding director of the Maryland/Israel Development Center, about the state's economic relationship with Israel and the venture capital fund.

What role did MIDC play in helping Direct Dimensions and Ariadne secure funds from BIRD?

We represent the BIRD Foundation in the state of Maryland. By representing them in the state, we try put together projects from Maryland and Israeli companies and get financial support from the BIRD Foundation. We gather a fee from the BIRD Foundation for successful deals.

What we did with Direct Dimensions and Ariadne was to connect them with the BIRD Foundation and help BIRD find partners in Israel. They each received $900,000.

We've done that with several other projects over the years. …

The BIRD Foundation uses a handful of organizations like us. We're closer to the companies in our region and can both market Israel and the BIRD Foundation to our companies a lot better than BIRD itself can do.

What is the state of Israel's investment in Maryland?

The best way to answer that is we have 20 some Israeli companies with offices in Maryland. It's always a fluctuating number because companies get merged or acquired or go out of business. …

In the '90s, we had 40 Israeli companies here. That's when money was fast and loose so you had a number of startups.

We had a really big success about 10 months ago. [Israeli] wireless broadband company Alvarion is moving their U.S. headquarters to Montgomery County. They're moving 25 jobs here.

What makes Maryland attractive to Israeli companies?

The workforce, because we essentially have the workforce … in sectors that parallels what's strong in Israel.

The biomedical fields. You can't do better when you have [the Johns Hopkins University], [the University of] Maryland and the [National Institutes of Health]. They could find the scientific talent and business talent that understands the [scientific] talent. That is second to none.

And then in the IT world, the biggest customer is here. The U.S. government and all the government agencies and all the companies that service those in Maryland. The Census Bureau, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, NIH and the NSA.

You are looking for innovation and that's where Israel excels. It's a great place for them to do business.