Italian Businesses Visit To Eye Latin American Opportunities
By Claudio Mendonca
Italian investors are looking at Miami as a springboard to Latin America, with Milan banking giant Unicredit Banca funding 15 Italian apparel and home-furnishings companies that want to distribute to the Americas.
This week, the team met with Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise Florida, Beacon Council and Miami Free Zone officials.
"We are still in an initial stage, running a feasibility study," said Paolo Catalfamo, CEO of Investar Group SGR of Milan who is spearheading the project. "We have been trying to identify challenges. But meetings have been very positive and informative. The community in Miami is very interested."
Attorney Arthur Furia of Gunster Yoakley & Stewart, who represents Italian investors in the US, said Unicredit would provide logistics, distribution services and a full range of financial services. Most companies involved are not established in the US, he said.
Mr. Catalfamo said their annual revenues range from $150 million to $200 million.
"The companies would be made up of local and Italian partners," Mr. Furia said. "Unicredit will enhance the ability of these companies to sell in the US and to have logistics and distribution to Latin American markets."
The group is eyeing New York, but Mr. Furia said lower rents and links to Latin America give Miami the edge. One possible site is the Miami Free Zone.
Gary Goldfarb, executive vice president of the Miami Free Zone, spoke with the delegation Tuesday and said they are "seriously looking at South Florida to improve their existing distribution." He said Italians appreciate the city’s workforce and multilingual community and are impressed with the region’s 1,000 logistics firms.
"It is very exciting. They wouldn’t have to build anything," he said. "But right now, the whole thing is very embryonic, and we are still in preliminary talks."