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The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry has been conducting marathon talks to approve grants for expanding factories, in the shadow of upcoming changes to the law on encouraging investment. The ministry's Investment Center approved 11 investment plans worth a total of NIS 342 million during its last meeting. The factories will receive grants equal to about 24% of the total cost of the investment.

"This is help for factories in the periphery, mostly in Ashkelon, the Beit She'an Valley and Nahariya," said Investment Center manager Hezi Zaieg. "It's in exchange for hiring 330 workers, and at the moment, government help for industry is important. We'll continue having meetings to review additional requests, and we'll also look into implementing the reform to the law on encouraging investments."

One of the big winners from the speedy approvals is agrochemical maker Makhteshim Agan, which won the largest grant, NIS 20 million.

The change to the investment law is part of the draft Economic Arrangements Bill, and is expected to pass. It sets new standards for eligibility, giving preference to factories that employ innovative technology. It will go into effect in January. In addition, the preference for foreign investors is expected to be dropped.

Makhteshim Agan received the money for its Ramat Hovav plant, in exchange for employing 24 people. The company plans to invest NIS 226 million in the plant, of which NIS 100 million has been recognized for the purpose of the grant. Thus, it will be getting government funding for 20%.

The company does not employ overly innovative technology, so it would be unlikely to receive a grant under the new regulations.

Other companies receiving grants include Rafa Laboratories in Har Hotzvim, which had a NIS 95 million investment approved for purposes of a government grant. It will hire 73 workers in exchange for the grant. Gatmanatic, which is building an electric cable manufacturing plant in Majdal Shams, had a NIS 2.5 million investment approved; it's hiring 22 people. Dabbah Slaughterhouse, which is expanding its plant in Deir al-Asad, had a NIS 21.2 million investment approved; it's hiring 45 new workers.

The government will pay between 20% and 24% of the recognized investments.