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Italian manufacturers shopping for investments at SelectUSA summit

by Antonella Ciancio

Seemless rolled rings manufacturer Fomas Group, global crown corks producer Pelliconi, irrigation systems supplier Plastica Alfa are among the around 40 Italian companies travelling to Washington DC this week to hunt for possible growth opportunities in the United States.
Better known to sector experts than to the general public, these small and medium-sized companies are often world leaders in their own sector and represent the backbone of the Italian economy.
Strongly oriented to exports as they recover from years of recession at home, from today March 23 they will take part in SelectUSA, a two-day summit organized by the US government as part of a series of initiatives launched by President Barack Obama to revive investments in the manufacturing sector.
Led by the US Ambassador in Italy, John Phillips, and by Italian Trade Agency (ITA) president Riccardo Monti, the delegation will meet with federal officials from 50 US states to explore which opportunities among tax and other incentives, right location, skilled workforce and low energy costs the US offers to foreign manufacturers and services companies.
Launched in 2011, SelectUSA aims to become a “one-stop-shop” for companies from all around the world, with China, Japan and Taiwan taking the lion's share at the summit.
“We are very excited for what Italy is doing, we are very impressed,” said Vinai Thummalapally, executive director of SelectUSA, who recently signed a memorandum of understanding with ITA agency president Riccardo Monti to promote bilateral investments.
Italy - the fifth-largest manufacturing economy in the world - is trying to reduce the gap with larger countries by sending the largest delegation from Europe, with twice as much participants than in the first edition in 2013. Automotive, robotics, chemicals, aerospace, but also food, fashion and design are Italy's stronger export drivers. Fashion and design leaders Tod's and Kartell have also joined the summit.
In three years, the SelectUSA program – of which the summit is only part – has facilitated deals worth $20 billion, said Stefan Selig, US Under Secretary of Commerce. In 2014, SelectUSA officials located at the Department of Commerce as well as at US consulates and embassies in over 70 markets have provided services to more than 1,000 potential international investors.
Some of the Italian participants to the summit like agricultural machine maker Doda, ammunition maker Fiocchi and steel producer Fomas Group have already entered the US market. Some have understood the potential of producing directly from the US to be closer to their clients who are bringing production home from the emerging countries. Foreign manufacturers become “local” suppliers and can take part in the “Made in Usa” revival.
Italy is the 17th largest source of foreign direct investment into the United States. Between January 2003 and January 2015, Italian firms announced 314 investments in the US. In 2012, US subsidiaries of Italian-owned firms employed over 130,900 US workers, paying an average annual salary of $78,700, according ot US government data.
But finding a direction among the 50 US states is not easy. SelectUSA offers free advice and connects the investors with main local players. At the summit, they will all be there available for two days.
“It seems banal to say that here in America deals can be made on the gulf course, but there's something true in this,” said Marco Checchi, chief executive officer of Pelliconi, a global supplier of crown, metal and plastic closures for beverage giants like Heineken and Coca-Cola. From 2010, the group produces from its plant in Florida for Nestle Waters. It's planning to add a second line and double its installed capacity to produce for other clients, launching a new product every year.