Trade representative pitches Nevada to Italian companies
December 3, 2007
Miriano Ravazzolo, president of Reno’s InterConnekt LLC, came to Nevada to manage some U.S. operations of Zhermack, an Italian firm.
But when the company’s U.S. operations eloped to New Jersey, Ravazzolo stayed true to the silver and blue.
Now appointed by the Nevada Commission on Economic Development as a trade and investment representative to Italy, he serves the state not for money, but for leverage.
The position pays no salary, says Ravazzolo, but affords him greater credibility when he courts Italian firms looking to locate here.
Ravazzolo spends three months a year in Italy, making presentations at business forums. His talk: “The American market and the medium-sized Italian company.” He sells the tax advantages of Nevada as a base from which to serve all the states especially California; the largest U.S. market right next door.
But Nevada is a tough sell, he says.
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“Europeans don’t know where or what is Nevada. Everybody knows Las Vegas, but they do not connect Las Vegas with Nevada. They know New York and Los Angeles. Maybe Texas.”
Still, he’s convinced seven Italian companies to court Nevada.
For one firm, he found a distributor who landed the company a $4.7 million contract to design and build a concrete plant in South Carolina.
Another company, a producer of printed circuit boards, had all but decided to build a plant in Reno when it ran afoul of water regulations that made the plant cost prohibitive. Still, it incorporated in Nevada, and is now is looking at a Texas site where groundwater protection is a lesser concern.
Cognizant of water’s value in the West is an aeroponic company coming here, he adds. Grown in air, aeroponic plants require a mere 10 to 20 percent of the water needed for hydroponic farming.
While Ravazzolo’s focus is on big business, he’s made an exception for his current project: an Italian specialties import shop cruising for a site in Reno.
Payment, he says, depends on what services are needed. Once that’s agreed upon, he determines the price and devises a contract.
While most of InterConnekt’s business has come from Italy, Ravazzolo says he’s working with a Nevada nanotech company wanting a subsidiary in Italy. And a couple of research companies are making overseas inquiries.
Italy, with 60 million people, is not just pastures and tourist attractions, he adds. The Italian economy is the fifth-largest Western economy and the eighth largest world economy. Its people own more cars and cell phones, per capita, than Americans. An added bonus to companies wanting to expand overseas: Once a company gains a foothold in the European market, it can move around in the European Union with no barriers.
But courting a foreign market is no bed of wine and roses.
“There are plenty of commonalities but the differences are where you get burnt,” says Ravazzolo.
Expectations are the heart breaker.
“Don’t expect what’s not in the contract,” he cautions. “What’s normal for you is not normal for them. Here, a distributor waits for a company to tell them where to deliver. In Europe the distributor does it all marketing, finding customers, and delivering the goods.”
The chief challenge European firms face in the United is the sheer size of the market.