For representatives of 38 Italian companies in town for a three-day economic forum to explore business opportunities in the Toledo area, Tuesday began with greetings from local officials and organizers of the event and continued with tours of two prime local assets.
“Benvenuto,” Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said, using the Italian word for “welcome” as he spoke to about 45 attendees at a morning session of the 2014 Italian Business Forum at the Park Inn by Radisson downtown.
“This opportunity is to show you why it matters where you make things,” Mr. Collins said, paraphrasing the slogan of the new Toledo brand initiative, “It matters where you make it.”
Gionata Lazzaretti, a business consultant from Correggio, Italy, and a co-organizer of the event, said through an interpreter that when organizers began to talk about holding a forum, “We didn’t think it would develop to the dimension it did.”
It started with 20 companies then grew to 38.
Mr. Lazzaretti said he was both “excited and optimistic” about what may come from the forum and that people from his firm, Still Italy Srl, and 5 Lakes Global Group Ltd., another co-organizer of the event already had helped some of the business representatives at the forum to learn what they need to know to do business in Ohio and Toledo.
After a morning session during which forum attendees heard discussions on how to do business in the United States, the logistical advantages of Toledo, and the help available to them through the Italian Trade Commission, the group had lunch at Fifth Third Field, courtesy of the Toledo Mud Hens.
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In the afternoon, groups went two places, to see the facilities controlled by the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and a tour of the University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly the Medical College of Ohio.
At UTMC, 13 Italian visitors affiliated with biomedical firms got an extensive look at the new $36 million Interprofessional Immersive Simulation Center, one of the most advanced health-care training facilities in the country.
Pamela Boyers, executive director of the center, took the visitors to a 3-D simulation of a country villa, another 3-D simulation where they could dissect a virtual human skull, and to a state-of-the-art training “hospital” where students interact with artificial patients.
“In our center you can fly through a human heart or you can learn anatomy from inside the body. ... The hope is that when you can visualize what you learn, it helps more with retention,” Dr. Boyers said.
Marcello Fantuzzi, technical director for Newcast Services Srl, a company involved in biomedical devices and orthopedic products, was amazed by what he saw.
“I think [this] is the best, most fabulous and fantastic medical facility I have ever seen before,” he said, looking at dummies that can simulate eye and mouth maladies.
“I like the possibilities for my company for sales of surgical [devices] in the U.S. and the Midwest,” he added.
At the morning session, forum attendees heard from Italian attorney Linda Pignatti and her staff at the law firm of Caffagni & Pignatti about what is needed to export goods or set up businesses in the United States.
Paul Toth, president and CEO of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, detailed the importance of logistics in the Toledo area, the number of large companies that have already located here, and the fact that the area is within a 20-hour drive of 72 percent of U.S. households.
Bart Pascoli, a project coordinator for the Italian Trade Commission office in Chicago, discussed the help his agency provides to Italian businesses seeking U.S. operations.
“That’s our mission statement, to help encourage Italian businesses in the U.S. market, be it through direct investment, mergers, and acquisitions, setting up a company or a manufacturing facility,” Mr. Pascoli said.
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Mr. Pascoli said Toledo would appeal to a distribution company because of its location and logistical possibilities. Where other Italian companies go “depends on their business sectors and where their potential client base is,” he added.
But the United States appeals greatly to Italian businesses because it costs less to manufacture in the United States because of energy costs, Mr. Pascoli said. “Companies save 30 percent off their operational costs in the U.S.,” he said.
Scott Prephan, president of 5 Lakes Global, said the event is already ahead of a similar event held in September, 2012, that involved business people from China.
Mr. Prephan said the Italian companies at the forum were vetted before coming to Toledo. “They all have legit business reasons for being here. They have business infrastructures in place so that they are ready to expand,” he said.
In fact, Mr. Prephan said organizers spent Monday showing one company potential sites for a manufacturing plant leaders wish to relocate. “They are very serious about this,” he said.
Mr. Prephan said that unlike the China forum, the Italian forum has the potential to reap tangible benefits right away. “We’re not just here to put on a show,” he said.
Today, the forum wraps up with discussions on taxes, legal issues, and supply chain services, plus tours of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Toledo Assembly plant, and the Maumee facilities of The Andersons Inc.
Contact Jon Chavez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6128.