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Export managers on the way for small, mid-sized companies

by Giorgio Costa

The moment for six-month vouchers has nearly arrived for companies that wish to tap government funds to hire a temporary export manager to help them penetrate foreign markets. Vice Minister for Economic Development Carlo Calenda, speaking at a conference in Bologna, said the list of companies able to supply the managers in question will be set by April.

The event, sponsored by Confindustria (the industrialists' association) of Emilia Romagna on the topic of international expansion, saw the signing of an agreement between SACE, the Italian Export Credit Agency, and Confindustria to facilitate the spread of information about financial and insurance-based instruments of trade credit for exporters.

“Immediately after, we'll open the notices that will allow companies to use a temporary export manager for free for six months,” assured Calenda.

The small companies that make up Italy’s economic backbone often have a hard time tapping foreign markets. With domestic growth stagnant or shrinking in some sectors, companies that are unable to find export markets face extinction.

The ministry is mulling the minimum size of companies that will be allowed to take advantage of this “export manager” benefit (probably between €500,000-€1 million in revenue), and the idea of using €20 million provided by the Stability Law, in two tranches of €10 million, to test the capacity of offerings by the companies that make managers available.

This element is being inserted in the special plan for Made In Italy that aims to grow exports by €50 billion over two years with a positive impact on GDP in the range of 4%. That's also why - now favored by a weak Europe and low energy prices - a commercial agreement with the US will be signed quickly, after having been “slowed down by jitters over OGM (genetically modified food),” said Calenda, noting that “North America is the most promising market for our goods.”

That's also why in the US there will be new commercial strategies developed by Italy's trade group GDO, which represents large-scale retail chains, including an investment of €20 million to battle so-called “Italian sounding” products - which sound like they're made in Italy but aren't.

Internally, there's also a move to buck up ICE, the Italian Trade Association (“which doesn't function as things stand today,” said Calenda) and to pay more attention to overseas marketing - avoiding waste, duplication or superfluous representation.