They went to explain "Why South Carolina" and seemed to return with answers for "Why Israel."

And therein may lie the success of the recent 26-member, weeklong research and trade delegation from the Palmetto State to the Middle East. "They've got lots of follow-up to do," said Tom Glaser, president of the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce, and one of the organizers of the trip. "The Israelis now know about South Carolina."

Henry Taylor, the Charleston Regional Development Alliance's vice president of global business development, spoke highly of the technology transfer apparatus in place there, calling the public and private sectors "fully aligned."

"I think we have all of the components" in South Carolina, Taylor said, "but it's not as aligned as it could be."

Stephen Lanier, associate provost at the Medical University of South Carolina, was wowed by Israel's business incubators, an area that the Charleston region has been expanding into.

"They really got it down pat," Lanier said.

Taylor and Lanier were two of the Charleston-area representatives who made the whirlwind tour of Israel from Nov. 12 to 17. They toured universities and hospitals and met with business leaders and government officials.

They learned about the possibility of joint research and development agreements, how Israel launches promising young businesses and about companies that might be looking to expand operations in South Carolina.

Taylor, for instance, met with two of the largest aerospace companies in Israel. Elbit Systems already has North American operations, having participated in a joint venture in South Carolina with General Dynamics, he said.

And Israeli Aerospace Industries builds planes and makes the kind of composite that forms the fuselage of Boeing Co.'s 787 Dreamliners. "They actually produce parts that go on the 787," Taylor said.

In Lanier's realm, one of his colleagues is on sabbatical at one of the hospitals the delegation visited, and a half-dozen Israeli professors from Technion University were attending a stem cell and regenerative medicine symposium at the Medical University of South Carolina the same week.

"Going over there and seeing what was going on was a great learning opportunity but I also think that it reinforced many of things that we're doing in the state and trying to do are going in the right direction," he said.

Organizers expect a reciprocal trip in the near future.

"I see out of this the potential for inviting delegations of Israeli companies and researchers to south Carolina for what we call industry-specific business exchanges," Glaser said. "I'm confident that the course of 2012 we'll have at least one of those Israeli delegations come to South Carolina for a matchmaker-type event."

Port report

While shipping container traffic is the standard by which ports are often measured, it's the cargo that doesn't fit neatly in a rectangular box that's been a winner for the ports of Charleston and Georgetown this year.

Some examples of goods that make up this growing market are BMW automobiles built near Spartanburg, industrial-size truck tires and machinery.

So-called breakbulk tonnage for the port's current fiscal year is up more than 74 percent. At the State Ports Authority's Charleston and Georgetown ports, volume in October was 121 percent above 2010 levels.

Container volume, meanwhile, was off by 6 percent in October. The Port of Charleston handled the equivalent of 113,650 20-foot-long containers in October, down from 121,229 a year earlier.

The SPA said in a statement that "September's container volume increase of nearly 18 percent was more an outlier than an indicator of an upward trend."

The SPA has been working on economic development deals aimed at bolstering port business and is implementing a $1.3 billion capital plan for new and existing facilities over 10 years.

At its November meeting last week, the SPA board approved projects totaling $988,000 in equipment and infrastructure upgrades, including four container handler masts for the workhorse Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant and improved rail leads serving Veterans Terminal on the old Navy based in North Charleston.

The board also signed off on two economic development agreements related to South Carolina's growing tire industry: The SPA is participating in the financial incentive packages tied to Continental Tire's plans for a $500 million plant in Sumter that will employ up to 1,700 workers, and Bridgestone Corp.'s new 1.5 million-square-foot manufacturing plant in Aiken that's expected to create 850 jobs.

Toy story

At the height of "Buy Local Month," a locally owned merchant is receiving high praise. Southern Living magazine named Wonder Works in Charleston, Mount Pleasant and West Ashley among "The South's Best Toy Stores" in its December edition. It was the only South Carolina store featured. The magazine also recognized the local company's charitable focus, including a fundraiser last December when Wonder Works donated 7,000 toys to the Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital. The owner is Christine Osborne.

Discounted dining

Care to eat out on the cheap as those holiday bills trickle in? The S.C. Hospitality Association has just the ticket.

The trade group has announced the dates of its third annual Restaurant Week South Carolina. The 11-day event will begin Jan. 12 and run through Jan. 22.The event's website is www.restaurantweeksouthcarolina.com, which is expected to list all participating menus by Jan. 5. It will include a database that users can search by menu type, price range or location.

Dining establishments interested in participating in Restaurant Week South Carolina can learn more about the event and sign up online at the website. The deadline is Dec. 23.

Naughty and nice

Bi-Lo, once bankrupt as it reworked its debt, is on the plus side of a major consumer list this holiday season.

The Mauldin-based supermarket chain is listed among companies such as Microsoft, American Express and Costco on Consumer Reports "2011 Naughty and Nice Holiday List," a compilation of well-known companies that are awarded points for consumer good behavior.

"This Southern chain offers a double-money-back guarantee on every item it sells whatever the reason for the return," Consumer Reports said of Bi-Lo.

The list is based on specific policies and is not reflective of a company as a whole, the consumer magazine said.

Among those on the naughty list, according to Consumer Reports: Radio Shack for charging different prices online and in-store for the same item, Southwest Airlines for adding a fee for early check-in, GameStop for a laundry list of conditions governing returns and exchanges, and Verizon Wireless for not following through on its policy to notify customers when they are about to go over their minutes and then trying to sell them an upgrade.

For the complete list, go to consumerreports.org and click on Money on the left.