Gianluca Fontani (President - Italian Chamber of Commerce in Miami)

Così il Made in Italy può conquistare la Florida

Apr 12, 2013 6500 ITA ENG

Gianluca Fontani is the President of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce in Miami. On our journey to meet the protagonists of the relations between Italy and the US, we think it is important to give a voice to the president of a fundamental institution such as the Italian Chamber in one of the most important areas for business in the USA. We thank him for his time.

Gianluca, what kind of services do you provide to the members of your Chamber of Commerce?

The Italy-America Chamber of Commerce in Miami has been active since 1991. Over the years, many Italian firms have come to us to find out about the business opportunities and get information on the features of this particular market.

We provide orientation guides, lists of importers-distributors, we carry out market research and organize B2B interactions putting Italian producers in touch with professional buyers in the US.

Miami is the port of entry to South America and the Caribbean, but it is also an exceptional trade hub, as well as a greatly fascinating city. What are the most important Made in Italy sectors there?

"Made in Italy" is a world-renowned and aspirational brand, which continues to be significant in the US, however that alone is not sufficient to “break through”. Companies who want to export to this country need to have an impeccable business organization, be based on modern marketing strategies, and dedicate the most detailed attention to client services, particularly when it comes to accuracy of product delivery.

The most widely sold products are those related to the boating industry (yachts and nautical components) – in which Italy is an international leader. Florida is one of the top markets in the world for the purchase of yachts: there are more registered recreational crafts here than in the whole of Europe. Other typical export products are those related to the wine and food business (especially wine) and to the household and furnishings industry. Miami is one of the most important distribution centers of top-of-the-line furniture for both the Southeast of the US and for the entire Latin American region. This area is also extremely important for the Italian luxury sector (high fashion and jewelry).

What are the characteristics of the Italians and Italian-Americans living in the Southeast?

There is a difference between historical immigration and more recent waves of immigration from Italy to the US. There are over 1 million 3rd- and 4th-generation Italian-Americans out of a population of 19 million inhabitants – with a large presence in areas such as Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa and Sarasota. Miami itself does not currently have a large traditional Italian-American community. However, the city has experienced a large wave of immigration, which began in the late 1990s, made up of young families, entrepreneurs and researchers.

The two communities, Italian-born vs Italian-Americans, follow slightly different ways of thinking, but they share a strong sense of belonging to Italy and a great appreciation for what Italy represents in terms of culture and industry.

What advice would you give to those who are considering the possibility of opening a business in Miami?

For those interested in investing, Florida has many opportunities and incentives. Just think for example that starting a business only requires a few days: there is an abyss between American bureaucracy and Italian bureaucracy. Further, agencies of economic development in the various Counties offer incentives and concessions for people creating employment. The Chamber of Commerce has taken part in missions and made agreements with these agencies, in order to best exploit these incentives for the Italian firms wanting to expand in this market.

The business internationalization strategy in Italy keeps changing. As an Italian entrepreneur abroad and President of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce in Miami, what would you say to the people working in this field?

It is essential that they take into account the directions provided by the firms operating abroad. Inefficiencies, initiatives that make little sense from the business point of view, and failed synergies must be eliminated.

I believe the Italian Chambers of Commerce abroad have demonstrated their reliability, a wise use of the (scarce) resources at their disposal, business acumen and most of all good knowledge of the territory. Overcoming the enormous financial constraints, we strive to promote our export with many small day-to-day actions. We are an important point of reference for the manufacturing world, even though we receive only a minimal percentage from the government to cover our operating costs: we self-finance the rest – around 90% – through membership fees and the sale of services.  

I think the time has come for Rome to recognize that Italian Chambers of Commerce are an asset for Italy: they are vital antennas for our business community.

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