Italian companies, responding to changing tastes and an increase in the Southeast‘s disposable income, are targeting the region as an untapped market for their products, according to Giovanni Bifulco, Atlanta‘s new Italian trade commissioner.

This is particularly true, he said, of Italian manufacturers of capital goods machinery, home décor and giftware, as well as food and beverages, all of which are now more active in promoting product lines to the Southeast.  In the past, companies have focused on more traditional markets, such as Chicago or New York.

The trend southward was evidenced by the recent visit of 22 Italian food product firms to meet with area retailers, said Mr. Bifulco, who arrived here in September following a posting with Italian Trade Commission in New York. He met briefly with the group during their stay in Atlanta.

He told GlobalFax that Italian companies are also now locating distribution and warehousing facilities in the United States, as shipping to American customers from a distribution point in the U.S. has become a more cost-effective means of doing business for many Italian firms.

Specific to manufacturing, he said that opportunities exist in the Southeast for the development of automated manufacturing plants, citing the Pirelli tire manufacturing plant in Rome, Ga., which began production last year, as a key example.

He also highlighted the ceramic tile industry as another sector ripe for Southeast expansion.  Italian companies, which hold a 48% share of U.S. tile imports, currently ship the tiles to the U.S., but logistics can be difficult and costly. As a result, he explained, Italian ceramic tile companies are increasingly looking to manufacture their products in the U.S.

Overall, said Mr. Bifulco, the number of Italian firms making direct investments in Georgia in recent years has steadily increased. Forty one Italian companies have made direct investments in the state, including some 20 investments made since 1995. Italy currently ranks as Georgia’s 12th largest foreign investor country.

For more information, contact the Italian Trade Commission in Atlanta at (404) 525-0660.