Fourth Round Table on Italian Technology & Italian FDI
On October 24th, 2019, we were at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where we held our 4th Round Table on Italian Technology & Italian FDI in North Carolina.
The Round Table series, organized by the Honorary Consul of Italy to North Carolina and sponsored by CCI-NC, provides the opportunity for professionals in technology and innovation to engage in a meaningful discussion about their industries. This year, the theme was Italian
Technology and Design Furniture, and it focused on five Italian companies with their U.S. headquarters right here in North Carolina: Bacci America, Biesse America, Cefla North America, Natuzzi Americas, and Salice America.
The evening began with a lovely reception, where business leaders, students, and economic development staff mingled in the atrium of the Bioinformatics building on campus. We welcomed the Honorable Pier Forlano, Consul General of Italy in Philadelphia, who was visiting the area for two days. During the reception, guests enjoyed a brief performance by tenor Gianluca Sciarpelletti, who is performing the role of Macduff in Macbeth, which is being produced by Opera Carolina.
Before the managers of the Round Table companies spoke, Hon. Pier Forlano welcomed everyone to the event. He was pleased to see the collaborations that already exist, and discussed how he wants to continue to foster them moving forward.
Dr. Claudio Carpano, Honorary Consul of Italy to North Carolina (as well as Associate Professor Emeritus at Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte, and CEO & Founder of Management
inSites), then highlighted the extent to which Italian companies invest in both the U.S. and North Carolina. With
nearly 94,000 direct employees of Italian companies in the U.S., and more than 100 Italian companies in North Carolina, Italian companies mean business. Dr. Carpano focused on the importance of industry clusters, particularly the Furniture cluster in North Carolina, and how companies thrive as a result of it.
Mr. Giuseppe Bacci, Owner & CEO of Bacci America, discussed the evolution of the Bacci brand from its inception in 1918, and over four generations. It is now a market leader in the 5 or more axis CNC machinery with more than 50 international patents.
Mr. Bacci informed the audience that the U.S. subsidiary, which has been open since 2014, has sold over 100 CNC machining centers, with $5.9 million in turnover in 2018 alone. The company provides training, installation, and service for their North American customers. With award-winning technology, the company is always innovating to stay at the forefront of technological advancements.
Mr. Randy Jamison, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Biesse America, emphasized how the company manufactures technology for processing wood, glass, stone, advanced materials, and metal with over 4,400 employees worldwide. Overall, the company has 39 subsidiaries and 12 production sites, with customers in 120 countries.
The location in Charlotte, which was Biesse's first international subsidiary, was established in 1989 and operates in a 66,800 SQFT facility with $10 million in investments and 116 employees in North Carolina. They plan to expand their Charlotte campus in 2020.
Mr. Massimo Di Russo, Managing Director of Cefla North America, discussed how three main characteristics distinguish Cefla from the rest: its combined vision of style and functionality, its engineering and manufacturing expertise, and its capability to adapt its innovative Italian technology to North American standards. The company has over 500 active patents, demonstrating just how innovative they are!
The Charlotte subsidiary does business in 7 different economic systems with 26 worldwide facilities. Mr. Di Russo invited participants to their upcoming open house on Dec. 11th, 2019 to learn more.
Mr. Pasquale Junior Natuzzi, Brand Ambassador of Natuzzi Group, chose to highlight how the company relies heavily on nature and the beauty of Puglia, where the brand first began, as inspiration for their beautiful furniture pieces. Through collaborations with artists, Natuzzi has elevated its offerings to position itself as an affordable luxury brand.
Participants learned about this transition as well as the interesting partnership the company has with Microsoft. Now they use VR to help customers visualize the furniture in their homes before making their purchases. This has cut down the physical store footprint and helped drive sales, all while maintaining the Natuzzi brand experience.
Mr. Shawn Pressley, Director of Marketing for Salice America & Salice Canada, mentioned how the company uses technological advances, such as automated warehouses, and 3D technology to remain a leader in the furniture hardware industry. Customers are demanding smaller hardware that does more, and Salice is consistently delivering award-winning products.
The U.S. subsidiary in Charlotte, which has been operating since 1989, like the company at large, pursues a policy of constant investment to keep the facilities up-to-date to improve production systems. They just started an expansion project that will double their footprint in Charlotte.
Following the company presentations, moderator Dr. Valentina Cecchi, Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at UNC Charlotte, led a lively discussion. The speakers gave insights into the challenges of starting in the U.S. market and attracting skilled technicians, how they stay ahead of the curve when it comes to advanced technology and innovative products (a rat race with emerging markets that they all agreed was thrilling as well as challenging), how their customers are demanding advanced solutions yet struggle to fully implement them, how as part of the same cluster with a strong tradition in North Carolina they can help each other grow, and more.
Later in the evening, there was a private dinner with the panelists and several distinguished guests, including Charlotte Council Member, Larken Egleston; Frank Emory, Board Chair of EDPNC; and Dr. Joan Lorden, Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at UNC Charlotte. Much to the delight of the dinner guests, Mr. Gianluca Sciarpelletti performed two brief songs once again at the conclusion of the evening.
All pictures are copyright of Ginger Wagoner at Photosynthesis, Inc. - please contact her directly for reprint permissions.
The 4th Round Table could not have been possible without our event sponsors:
Date: Thursday, October 24, 2019
Venue: The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Bioinformatics Building, Charlotte, NC 28223
Reception: 4:30-5:30 pm
Round Table: 5:45-7:30 pm