By Al Shams

Ben Fink for Atlanta Jewish Times

Ben Fink will become Conexx’s chairmsan July 1. (photo by Michael Jacobs)

Three companies, the city of Atlanta and its airport, and an Emory University medical researcher were honored by Conexx at the 14th annual Eagle Star Awards on Thursday, May 28, at Georgia Power.

The awards gala highlights the achievements of the American-Israeli business connector and its members the past year.

The former American-Israel Chamber of Commerce in the Southeast changed its name last year to reflect its efforts in promoting bilateral growth between Southeastern companies and those based in Israel. Conexx’s strength is its experience in networking among members.

Dale Russell, a Druid Hills High alumnus who has spent his entire 30-year journalism career in Atlanta and is Fox 5’s senior investigative reporter, served as the master of ceremonies.

Mike Anderson, a senior vice president for Georgia Power, welcomed the crowd of more than 200 people to the company’s headquarters. He described his company’s industry-leading efforts in solar energy, often in collaboration with Israeli companies, after he began his remarks with a safety briefing in keeping with company policy.

Miguel Southwell, the general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, appreciated that touch, familiar to anyone boarding an airliner, when he accepted the Community Partner Award.

Israeli Consul General Opher Aviran, attending his last Eagle Star Awards before his term in Atlanta ends in August, discussed the close relationship between Israel and the United States, the nations’ shared values, and the growth in bilateral trade.

Aviran said he will be sad to leave Atlanta after making so many friends here.

Conexx Chairman Joel Neuman, whose term ends July 1, Chief Operating Officer Guy Tessler, and event chairman Mark Spiegel reviewed the organization’s accomplishments the past year, including holding its first golf tournament last fall, working toward the launch of a new website in June, and bringing Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and more than 30 others on a cybersecurity mission to Israel in March.

Reed missed the gala because of bad weather that stranded him in Chicago, but Southwell spoke on behalf of the city and the airport as the Community Partner honorees, recognized for their support for and work with Israel in knowledge exchange, missions to Israel and use of Israeli technology in city works.

The city has explored Israeli innovation in water technology, cybersecurity and alternative energy. The airport’s leadership has visited Israel twice in recent years.

Alpharetta-based EndoChoice, preparing for an initial public stock offering after acquiring Israel’s Peer Medical, was named the U.S. Company of the Year. The company is an innovator in gastrointestinal endoscopy whose signature product, FUSE, provides a wider view than conventional endoscopy, which is estimated to miss 25 percent to 40 percent of colon polyps. George Pratt, a company vice president, accepted the award.

Lea Bogatch-Genossar, the American president for Haifa-based ZIM Integrated Shipping, accepted the award for Israeli Company of the Year. ZIM, which serves over 100 countries as one of the 20 largest container shipping companies in the world, is active in such Southeastern ports as Norfolk, Savannah and Mobile.

Marking its 70th birthday this year, ZIM has emerged from what Bogatch-Genossar called seven years of crisis by converting $1.3 billion of debt into new company stock last year.

The Deal of the Year went to Rock Hill, S.C.-based 3D Systems, the creator of 3D printing, which engineers and manufactures printers for many applications for such companies as Boeing, GE, Honeywell, Sony and Toyota. The company invested nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in two Israeli companies: Simbionix, a leader in 3D medical imaging, and Cimatron, which provides 3D software to design and manufacture molds and tools.

The 3D printing market is expected to grow to $22 billion in worldwide revenue by 2020.

The night’s final presentation was the Tom Glaser Leadership Award, named for the man who led the business connector for more than 20 years. Glaser presented the award to Dr. Raymond Schinazi, a professor of pediatrics and chemistry at Emory and the director of the Laboratory of Biochemical Pharmacology.

Schinazi recounted his journey from a childhood in Alexandria, Egypt, to an Italian refugee camp and an English boarding school. After getting his degrees in England, he came to America for post-doctoral work at Yale University, then moved to Emory, where he has been a leader in developing and commercializing anti-viral drugs, including HIV treatments and the first cure for a virus for hepatitis C.

In 2010 with the help of Conexx, he led a 12-person life sciences mission to Israel. The trip helped Israeli companies make connections to use Atlanta as a gateway to the U.S. market.

Schinazi also has been a major contributor to the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

The award recipients were impressive, and Glaser offered an insightful comment. He noted that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, said that to be a realist living in Israel, you must believe in miracles. The Eagle Star gala helped confirm that Israel is the miracle of our age.