Last month Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and a team of Oakland County representatives from a number of fields, including business and economic development, traveled to Europe – Italy, Greece & Germany – but this was no leisure trip. Oakland County was there in full force to build relationships with overseas companies and more importantly, to get them interested in investing in Oakland County.
“The trip really consisted of [meeting with] a variety of companies representing different industries and level of U.S. investment,” says Senior Business Development Representative Michele Eaton. She notes that they were also there to meet with some of Oakland County’s established Italian-owned business partners that have already invested in the county – Marposs, Magneti Marelli and Plastipak. To further build and strength the relationship, the team met with management and toured their facilities.
Eaton notes that there are several promising new prospects that are likely to come from this trip, as well as stronger international ties as a result.
Patterson concurs: “From the amount of contacts we have it was a very productive trip,” he states. “One company committed to adding another 100 engineers …and several other prospects are coming to visit Oakland County this fall as a result of our efforts.”
They began the trade mission in Turin (Torino) with Governor Rick Snyder at the Turin Chamber of Commerce. Several Michigan communities and economic development organizations participated, including the City of Auburn Hills and Oakland University Incubator (OU Inc.). The team met with a number of different companies in the fields of automotive, medical and retail. The President of FIAT, Sergio Marchionne, held a dinner Governor Snyder, Mr. Patterson and several others from Michigan.
From there, the Michigan delegation split off into three teams: the Governor and an Oakland County representative traveled to Germany; Patterson stayed in Italy to follow up on a number of new company prospects in Turin, Milan, Bologna and Florence; and the third representative held seminars on Oakland County Medical Main Street in Bologna, and Information Technology and Communications in Athens, Greece.
The team, led by Patterson, met with Magneti Marelli, a huge auto supplier that takes in $6 billion annually in revenue that already has offices in Auburn Hills and continues to grow. Marposs, a world-wide leading company in of “precision metrology equipment” (Patterson explains more simply, “They make machines that test everything”), currently in Auburn Hills, is interested in the Medical Main Street initiative. And on the lifestyle end of things, because wine is the world’s reward for hard work, they also visited Tenuta Vitanza, a winery owned by former Bloomfield Hills resident Guido Andretta, who was an aerospace engineer and decided to cash it all and live the dream in the Italian countryside. They are in talks with Oakland County for a possible distributorship and possibly even a franchise of restaurants.
Irene Spanos, director of Economic Development & Community Affairs for Oakland County, was successful on the Greece leg of the trip. She led the team that also included an attorney and a representative from Oakland University’s Incubator (OU INC). to present to companies of the Hellenic Association of Mobile Application Companies (HAMAC) and to The Hellenic Semiconductor Industry Association (HellenicSIA) on what Oakland County has to offer these companies should they choose this community for their North American locations.
They had a hard sell because a delegation of these companies had already visited Silicon Valley in California and thought that was where they needed to be if they came to the States. But Spanos & team’s strong presentations in seminars covering medical and information technology and communications coupled with Oakland County’s Emerging Sectors Program – the county’s highly educated workforce – and the 700 foreign-owned firms already located here, sold them that Michigan is truly the strategic location for their North American location. From that, The University of Athens and Oakland University are in talks about collaboration; the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan (MTAM) is already talking to HAMAC on collaboration ideas; and HAMAC is planning a delegation trip to Oakland County later this year.
– The county is a world-leading center for business. There are more than 800 international business locations in Oakland County, representing over 700 foreign-parent firms.
The property of Tenuta Vitanza
L. Brooks Patterson, Mr. Davide Pizzorno, CEO & President of ED Group and Matthew Gibb in Italy
Sergio Marchionne, President of FIAT
Magnetti Marelli Alfa MiTo Kit One
President of Marposs Co. Ltd. Marco Zoli (right) accepts SME Star Award 2011 on behalf of Marposs
Tenuta Vitanza wines
Betty Alexandropoulou, US Embassy in Greece, Clara Mager, Butzel Long, Irene Spanos and Vasia Tzora from the Hellenic Semiconductor Industry Association in Greece