Israel: discover how the city of Kfar Saba, consortium member in SME4SMARTCITIES, strengthens local businesses

The growing need for urban innovation leads to significant development of initiatives for smart cities and creates new business opportunities for many SMEs. The process of integrating digitization in the urban space helps to manage the city efficiently and in a sustainable spirit, for the benefit of the city’s residents and the small and medium-sized businesses in their area.

For the past two years, the city Kfar Saba has been taking a significant part in a unique EU project – SME4SMARTCITIES (‘Mediterranean SME working together to make cities smarter’). The collaboration was conducted following a comprehensive study that included cities in Israel and Europe. The aim of the study is to examine the gaps that make it difficult for SMEs to work in fruitful cooperation with the authorities. The project will bridge the existing gaps that have been found and will enable joint work and the use of innovative solutions.

The important project promotes the interest of both parties – the public and private sectors. The project helps local businesses to penetrate the public market as well as local authorities to adopt innovative technologies and thus optimize its capabilities to provide service to the resident. The project includes, among other things, training programs, focus groups and the implementation of quality pilots tailored to the needs of the city.

Ms. Lihi Koren, Project Manager at the Kfar Saba Municipality interviewed Mr. Oren Cohe, Chairman of the Small and Medium Business Committee and future Deputy Mayor of Kfar Saba, on what will the Municipality do to strengthen local businesses.

How does the municipality strengthen local businesses?

“I took up my position as chairman of the SMEs Committee just at the time when the coronavirus broke out. We all experienced a very challenging time, both the local authority and the residents of the city, but the local businesses were hit severely”. To help business owners not only to keep their “heads above water”, but also to leverage the days of the Corona to economic success – the municipality has led a series of significant moves led by the vision of the mayor, Rafi Saar.

All the actions were made to help the SMEs. Tours and meetings were made with business owners around the city, in order to adapt optimal solutions.

First, providing discounts on property taxes. With the outbreak of the crisis, the municipality worked to promote and help businesses, of non-payment of property taxes (according to criteria set by the state) for several months, a move that helped them greatly.

“In addition, we encouraged local procurement campaigns, on billboards and digital media, to encourage purchasing in local businesses. In addition, The Business Administration was established, which strengthened the activities of local businesses in the digital space with the understanding that businesses need to be online. This move has helped a lot of businesses.

As part of the collaboration with local businesses, we made available to businesses the services of ZEKO Kfar Saba, a company that has developed a barter app service exchange free of direct money. The app includes many services and from them, you can choose a relevant product.”

“We also worked to eliminate the bureaucratic barrier that has made it difficult obtaining a business license. To this end, the municipality has made it possible for business owners to issue a digital license in a simple and user-friendly manner. We continue to work for businesses in the city and formulate a strategic plan to promote professional training for business owners, and professional guidance, such as controlling the digital space, accessing collaborations with other entities and businesses ext.”

“At the same time, we worked to strengthen the accessibility of businesses to the general public. For example, the transfer of cultural and community activities in the city to the main area in the city, where many businesses operate in the city. Parking is available nearby for shopping only, which has increased vehicle turnover in prominent commercial centers, as well as designated places for unloading and loading goods for the benefit of businesses”.

Does the municipality encourage the migration of new businesses to the city?

“Definitely yes. We locate relevant companies, we map the needs of the potential businesses and provide a comprehensive solution and actively assist in relocating the business in Kfar Saba.”