Governor Lincoln D. Chafee last week led a trade mission to Italy and Ireland that opened the door for new economic opportunities for Rhode Island's businesses, as well as strengthened the state's presence in international markets.
Governor Chafee was joined by Rhode Island Commerce Corporation (Commerce RI) Executive Director Marcel A. Valois. They met with businesses, educational institutions and international leaders in both countries. Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) President and CEO, Kelly J. Fredericks, joined the Rhode Island delegation in Ireland. Donald R. Sweitzer, Chairman of GTECH Corporation, participated in the trade mission as a business ambassador for the state.
In various meetings, they discussed growth opportunities, areas of mutual cooperation with firms interested in doing business in Rhode Island. The companies spanned various industries, including: manufacturing, transportation, food production, hospitality, renewable energy and technology.
"Rhode Island needs to continue to strengthen our role in global economic discussions. Throughout our country, states are looking beyond their borders to the international community to entice businesses to set up shop in their cities and towns. Companies want to do business in Rhode Island," Governor Chafee said. "By proactively reaching out to them, we are seizing the opportunity to make our state a better place to live, work and raise a family."
"Rhode Island must be in the game. We must continue to connect with the global market to develop new opportunities that will help our business community thrive. With our diverse business framework and strategic location in the Northeast, Rhode Island is well-positioned to increase international trade which will strengthen the state's economy and create jobs," said Valois. "Rhode Island has made the right investments in T.F. Green Airport, freight rail and our ports which gives us the capability to connect people and cargo overseas and across the United States. These are very attractive selling points when we talk to businesses and leaders in potential new markets."
These international markets identify with Rhode Island's rich Irish and Italian heritages and are encouraged by the growth opportunities Rhode Island offers. The proximity to Boston and New York makes Rhode Island an ideal location to transport both goods and people into the thriving New England region.
Trade Mission Highlights
Transportation Rhode Island's investments in transportation infrastructure made possible initial discussions with representatives of the Shannon Airport Authority as well as Ireland West Airport Knock about the potential for direct connections between T.F. Green Airport and Ireland for both freight and passenger traffic.
"There are many similarities between Shannon Airport and T. F. Green, and we believe strongly that there are both near-term and long-term opportunities to link the two facilities via cargo, and passenger flights. We are very excited to be partnering with the Shannon Airport Authority as we jointly pursue these future possibilities," Fredericks said.
"There is enormous potential for links between the two regions. Knock is on our radar screen," Fredericks said. "As we are continuing to grow our airport, Knock is looking very attractive to us, and it represents a unique opportunity for people and cargo traveling in both directions. The west of Ireland would be one of the big markets for us."
Manufacturing Discussions were held with several manufacturers in Italy and Ireland with interest in entering the U.S. market. • Getra (Italy) - A global electrical energy company which builds a variety of electrical transformers. • Manufacturers and small production operations (Ireland): o SELC Ireland Limited o Malone Farm Machinery o Monaghan Brothers o Foxford Woollen Mills • Greencore Group (Ireland) - Governor Chafee was able to thank Greencore executives for their recent commitment to build a food manufacturing facility in Rhode Island.
Renewable Energy Building on Rhode Island's renewable energy sector, they met with solar and wind technology companies in Italy. • Ropatec - Manufactures highly-efficient vertical axis wind turbines. • Tegole Solare - Manufactures photovoltaic solar cells embedded in roof tiles.
Food Production The trade mission included conversations with businesses in the food production industry. • Kimbo (Italy) - The second largest espresso coffee player in the Italian market with a presence in 52 countries. • Iman Casings Ireland Ltd. (Ireland) - Processes natural casings for the food industry.
Hospitality • Scuola Alberghiera Kaiserhof - The delegation toured Scuola Alberghiera Kaiserhof, a public high school in Italy, preparing youth for entry into university level culinary and hospitality management programs. They discussed the opportunities for Johnson and Wales University to establish a relationship for both student and faculty exchanges. • Galivm Restaurant Chain – They met with this local Italian restaurant chain interested in possibly opening their first U.S. restaurant in Rhode Island.
Technology • GTECH/Lottomatica (Italy) - Senior management of GTECH/Lottomatica, including Donald Sweitzer, discussed the corporation's growing global business and GTECH's continued growth in Providence with Governor Chafee and Marcel Valois. • TSEM (Italy) - They also visited TSEM, an engineering and development company that has developed a number of technologically advanced concepts such as a battery storage system and a magnetic resonance medical device.
As part of developing closer ties with international markets, the delegation met with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, representatives from County Mayo and top Italian officials.
While in Rome, they also visited the Rhode Island School of Design's campus - housed in a centuries-old palazzo - to meet with faculty and students who are studying abroad for the semester as part of the school's European Honors Program.
Costs of the business trip are still being assembled and will be released when available. It will be paid for by the State of Rhode Island.