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What do vultures have to do with the Utah trade mission in the Middle East?


Editor’s Note: Natalie Gochnour, David Eccles School of Business Associate Dean and Deseret News contributor, traveled with a delegation of business and community leaders on a trade mission led by the World Trade Center Utah to Israel and United Arab Emirates (UAE). Here is an insider’s look at what occurred on the trade mission in the fifth of a six-part series.

After graduating in 1960 from the University of Utah with an industrial design and sculpture degree, John Kaddas wasn’t sure what he would do to turn his passion for inventing things into a stable income for his family. Today, his son Jay and daughter-in-law Natalie are in Israel and the United Arab Emirates meeting with current and future customers. It’s a long journey from an industrial design class at the University of Utah to signing contracts with the Israeli Electric Company.

This is the magic of Utah entrepreneurship and the global reach of Utah trade missions.

The success of Kaddas Enterprises

Kaddas Enterprises manufactures thermoformed plastic parts for the transportation and aviation industries. It is also a world leader in wildlife and asset protection, specializing in raptor protection and preventing wildlife-caused power outages. The company products include anti-perch devices, line protectors and pole caps for transmission and distribution lines.

Major clients like Duke Energy, Exel Energy, Southern California Edison, Idaho Power and now the Israeli Electric Company purchase its products to prevent power outages. An estimated 20% of all power outages are caused by animal interactions, resulting in billions of dollars of economic loss.

Natalie Kaddas, who currently serves as Kaddas Enterprises CEO, participated in her first World Trade Center Utah trade mission to Israel in 2013 with then-Gov. Gary Herbert. She had observed the migration patterns of birds and knew that Israel would be a prime market for the company’s power-outage protection products. At the time, the Israeli Electric Company was cordial, but not interested. But the seeds were planted. Years later, the company began looking for additional suppliers. When Israeli Electric Company opened up a new bid for these products, Kaddas Enterprises competed and won the bid.

This week Natalie, her husband Jay and company CFO John Adams have been meeting with current and potential customers in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Traveling with a delegation of state leaders brings attention and credibility to their company. “As a small business, my reach and marketing dollars are limited,” said Natalie Kaddas. “Traveling with the governor and others in the state delegation helps deepen our relationships with current customers and opens new opportunities.”

I had breakfast with Natalie Kaddas and her team at our hotel in Dubai. She explained that she had no idea before coming on trade missions the reach and reputation of the United States in other countries. She said, “I’ve learned that companies in foreign countries don’t really distinguish between the U.S. federal government and state government. Being with a delegation of Utah political, business and community leaders really does open doors.”

At receptions in Tel Aviv and Dubai, Kaddas Enterprises was able to invite current and future customers to meet with U.S. embassy officials, Gov. Spencer Cox, House Speaker Brad Wilson, Senate President Stuart Adams and others in the delegation.

Business success with vultures

As an example of how meaningful and deep the relationships in foreign countries can be, Natalie Kaddas shared with me a moving experience in Israel.

They were treated to a unique opportunity to understand the local vulture population. In Israel, the Griffon vulture is critically endangered. At Hai-Bar Nature Reserve in Haifa, Israel, they are breeding vultures in captivity to try and rebuild the species population. As part of their regular monitoring, they are capturing vultures to test for lead levels in their blood. The vultures get exposed to lead by feeding on carcasses shot with lead bullets. If necessary, they treat the birds and then release them back into the natural environment.

A Griffon Vulture named “E28” at the Hai-Bar Nature Reserve in Haifa, Israel.

They invited Natalie Kaddas to release a Griffon vulture named “E28” into the wild. These old-world vultures have an up to a 9-foot wingspan and can weigh up to 23 pounds. Natalie Kaddas got to feel the exhilaration of strengthening relationships with her customer and returning one of these extraordinary raptors into the wild.

The story of Kaddas Enterprises is just one of many business success stories associated with this trade mission.

Business success in the Middle East

Fortem Technologies, based in Pleasant Grove, detects and defeats dangerous drones on the battlefield. It is in the Middle East meeting with defense and aerospace companies and have landed a multimillion dollar contract.

Savage Services planted seeds by meeting with government officials and businesses involved in energy and transportation. It benefits from the “third-party” validation the World Trade Center Utah and delegation provide.

The MENA Group connects U.S. companies with Middle East and North African countries, a $500 million market. It uses trade missions as a chance to expand its reach.

IONIQ develops multicancer screening technology to help with early-stage cancer detection. It is a prime example of a great, innovative Utah company working on world-changing technology. It is considering doing clinical trials in the UAE with the Emirates Health Service. The group is also looking to raise capital from the Saudi Wealth Fund.

Peel Therapeutics is a clinical-stage, Utah-Israeli biotech company expanding partnerships in the region. It is developing an oncology drug based on research gleaned from elephants (Peel is the Hebrew word for “elephant”), a species that doesn’t get cancer. Katelin Roberts of BioHive, represents Peel Therapeutics and other health care innovation companies on this trade mission. She told me companies use these trade missions to find customers, leverage partnerships and bring home intellectual and financial capital. She said, “Trade missions advance Utah’s role as a global player in the international marketplace.”

Making Utah the crossroads of the world

At the closing delegation lunch, Dan Hemmert told the delegation this is the most ambitious trade mission ever for the state of Utah. He reminded the group that when you hike a mountain the summit is only the halfway point. “We still have halfway to go as we follow up and turn our ideas into tangible action steps,” said Hemmert.

Miles Hansen told the delegation, “We need to make sure these relationships are enduring.” The World Trade Center Utah and the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity plan to do a detailed after-action plan upon returning home from the trade mission.

This is how we make Utah the crossroads of the world, one business at a time.

Natalie Gochnour is an associate dean and director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah.





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