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Patrick to travel to Britain, Israel

10-day mission to focus on trade

By Noah Bierman
Globe Staff / February 10, 2011

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Governor Deval Patrick will fly to Israel and Britain early next month on a 10-day, $300,000 trade mission, he announced yesterday.

Patrick, who went abroad once in his first term, wasted little time fulfilling a promise he made after his reelection to travel more frequently.

“This is a jobs trip,’’ Patrick said as he stood next to Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the British ambassador, as well as the consuls general of Israel and the United Kingdom.

The trip will take the governor and his entourage of more than two dozen people, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Suffolk Construction chief John Fish, to Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, London, and Cambridge, England.

Patrick and the diplomats who made yesterday’s announcement focused on the extensive business ties between Massachusetts and their respective countries. Massachusetts sends more exports to the United Kingdom than to any other country, and Israel is home to a thriving biotechnology industry.

In Israel, Patrick will stay at the legendary King David Hotel in Jerusalem and meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Tzipi Livni. The group is also trying to set up a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain.

Yesterday, Israeli consul general Shai Bazak touted the links between Israel and Massachusetts in education and biotechnology, but warned that “other states are increasingly challenging Massachusetts’ position.’’

Specialists and others who have attended trade missions say successful ones need to be planned carefully and well in advance. But less than a month before the March 7 departure, trip organizers say some business participants have yet to be invited and the itinerary abroad is still being planned.

Patrick spoke about promoting life sciences and clean energy, but was vague about what specifically he would accomplish on the trip. He said the state is working on deals to sign while he is abroad, something many governors do, so that they have a tangible accomplishment to bring home. But the governor did not name any companies.

Collaboration between US and foreign businesses does not always add to the state’s employment. Despite millions of dollars in subsidies from the state, Evergreen Solar announced last month that it will move its Massachusetts factory to China, where Patrick traveled in his first term.

“We’re not going to win every one,’’ Patrick said yesterday. “But we’re not going to win anything if we’re not in the game.’’

A total of 21 executives will attend the two-part trip. More will probably be added, said Susan Windham-Bannister, president and chief executive officer of Mass Life Sciences, a quasi-public agency that is selecting companies to participate.

Some executives, including Kraft, who is involved in Jewish philanthropy, and Fish, own businesses that depend directly on Massachusetts either for state contracts or help in securing subsidies.

Also attending is Gary L. Gottlieb, president of Partners HeathCare, the state’s largest hospital and physician network, which has been the subject of state and federal investigations for alleged anticompetitive practices. Gottlieb is taking the trip as Patrick begins a major effort to revamp the health care payment system in Massachusetts, a move that could have huge implications for Partners.

The business leaders will pay their own expenses. The state portion of the trip will be paid by the quasi-public agencies, which depend on public funds and some matching money from businesses, according to Patrick.

Diane Hessan, chief executive of a Watertown digital marketing company called Communispace, said she was invited about a week ago. Her company has 12 employees based in London, but no business in Israel. Though she does not have a specific business agenda for the trip, she believes she was invited because she is a good saleswoman for the state.

“When you come with a critical mass of people, you get more attention,’’ she said. “You get more ideas.’’

Patrick, like governors before him, faced questions yesterday about leaving the state while residents cope with a rough economy and lawmakers confront a budget with drastic cuts in social services and other programs.

“The Legislature is very clear about what my priorities are,’’ Patrick said. “There’s also phone and e-mail.’’

Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com.