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Toledo gets taste of Italian businesses

Nearly 40 companies attending 3-day forum

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    Italian and American businessmen mingle at Italian Business Forum in Toledo on Monday night.

    THE BLADE/LORI KING
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    Park Inn banquet workers Darrell Madison, left, and Erik Dashner, center, admire a smart watch promoted by Fabiano Zamuner,the founder and CEO of Exetech Labs in Turin, Italy.

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Italian and American businessmen mingle at Italian Business Forum in Toledo on Monday night.

THE BLADE/LORI KING
Enlarge | Buy This Image

A summit to showcase the business and development opportunities that Toledo and Ohio can offer Italian companies began Monday night with community and business leaders promoting the area’s strengths.

Speaking through a translator, Carol Contrada, president of the Lucas County Commissioners, welcomed the Italian visitors to the Glass City during the opening reception.

Toledo and northwest Ohio, she said, is a unique part of the United States, but the region is similar to Italy in that they both share a rich history of manufacturing glass.

“We are at the crossroads of transportation. We are an urban hub of manufacturing and skilled labor. We also are a strong agricultural community with close ties to the land around us,” Mrs. Contrada said. “This area, geologically, used to be a swamp. It is known as the Great Black Swamp. When the glacier receded, it left a very fertile land behind that is wonderful for farming and agriculture.”

Nearly 40 Italian-based firms are attending the three-day 2014 Italian Business Forum at the Park Inn by Radisson Hotel & Conference Center downtown.

The participants include eight manufacturers, 17 wine and food companies, three biomedical firms, two automotive firms, a law firm, a construction firm, a consulting firm, an import-export firm, a toy distributor, and an English-language school.

Mrs. Contrada said Ohio is the third-largest grower of tomatoes in the country, and the crop is the base for the sauce that is an important ingredient in the cuisine of southern Italy.

“We have so much in common,” she said.

Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins, councilmembers Sandy Spang and Larry Sykes, and former Toledo mayor Mike Bell also attended the reception.

“It is with international relationships that economies will survive, and without international relationships economies will flounder,” said Mayor Collins, who will give a presentation today at the forum.

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Park Inn banquet workers Darrell Madison, left, and Erik Dashner, center, admire a smart watch promoted by Fabiano Zamuner,the founder and CEO of Exetech Labs in Turin, Italy.

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Gionata Lazzaretti, an Italian business consultant based in Correggio, Italy, through the translator, said Italian companies want to develop relationships in Toledo and Ohio.

“Italy’s economy, these days, is not that great. But they are willing, and they are able,” he said. “We also welcome you. We wish you three days of good times, good meetings, and good food.”

Also scheduled to speak today are Mr. Lazzaretti, Dean Monske of the Regional Growth Partnership, Paul Toth of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and Bart Bascoli of the Italian Trade Commission, which is based in Chicago.

Fabiano Zamuner of Turin, Italy, is attending the forum to promote and explore the U.S. markets for a smart watch called the Exetech XS-3, which works without the assistance of a smart phone and has an expandable memory.

“I am trying to expand our market beyond Italy and sell the watch in the rest of the world and in the U.S.,” said Mr. Zamuner, who began his company in 2012.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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