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Italy’s Calenda to oversee joint efforts to help foreign investors get their business rolling

by Carmine Fotina

New Economic Development Minister Carlo Calenda will oversee a plan to increase coordination between his ministry, the Italian Trade Agency and Italy's 20 regions to make it easier for foreign companies to invest in Italy. A first meeting of the Foreign Investment Committee will be held today at the Economic Development Ministry. The Confindustria business group will also attend.

The meeting's discussions will revolve around three points, the first having to do with promotional strategies: all parties interested need to settle on the sectors and the foreign markets that will be considered a priority. Also an annual strategic plan must be agreed to.

The second point has to do with identifying investment opportunities and coordinating the exchange of information on regulations and incentives available.

Finally the third point deals with the task of providing support, for instance assistance to foreign investors already operating in the various regions of the country, and sharing information on projects old and new through a system of joint customer relationship management.

The goal, besides encouraging new investors, is to expand investments that are already underway (today, 60% of foreign investment activity is reinvestment).

For example, in some cases the goal might be to transform service activities like sales and marketing into more structural ones, like logistics, production and R&D. To that end, the new partnership will identify 25 target companies to which to offer incentives to expand their presence in Italy.

On a centralized level, the Italian Trade Agency is already monitoring about €6.5 billion in investments, in some cases blocked due to various vetoes. The first project the Committee looked at was Westfield's investment in Milan, totaling €1.3 billion.

There's also a major agreement currently being negotiated with a foreign investor in the paper sector, worth around €350 million.

The Italian Trade Agency has 20 people in Italy and a growing network of ten bureaus abroad that eventually will include Istanbul, Tokyo, Singapore, Dubai, London and New York.

The plan also calls for actively marketing the Invest in Italy website and its real estate listing service that gets about 2,000 visitors a day. It's first property, on Via della Spiga in Milan, was sold for €37 million — well up from an initial starting auction price of €24.3 million.