America in Italy

Last Thursday was an excellent day at work. Two particularly notable things happened: First, I was given a meaningful, substantial project to work on. Not to say what I’ve been doing is not meaningful (most days I’ve been helping to prep for our single company events), but I suppose this work was more intellectually stimulating for me. I’m helping the commercial specialists update and produce market research reports that U.S. companies can use to inform themselves on particular sectors of the Italian market. We use publicly available information for the reports, but the information is often translated and then presented and synthesized in a more digestible format. 

The first report I updated was for the Cosmetics Market. The beauty sector here is highly saturated with Italian products and Italy actually runs an enormous trade surplus in cosmetics. The Made in Italy mark is highly desirable in most high-end luxury products, and cosmetics is no exception. This makes market entry very difficult for American suppliers of finished goods, but can be profitable for those looking to export inputs. Also, I did not know that products made with animal content cannot be sold as cosmetics in the EU. I find this very interesting because its not as if no one consumes animal products in the EU, so what makes the difference to put something that on my face that contains an animal product than to put it in my mouth? I need to do some further research…

I’m also working on a report regarding the Boat Accessories Market. To tell the truth, I never even thought about the existence of this market prior. Of course I know that boats need sails, ropes, cabin fittings, but I had yet to think about things like how boaters use GPS systems to navigate. And since Italy has over 5,000 miles of coastline, it seems fitting that a substantial market would exist here. 

Right now I am on the train to go to the Rome airport, and we just passed the Fiera di Roma. It’s a huge exhibition hall, fairgrounds, and event venue outside the city. It’s fitting that we just passed there because one of the other issues I’ve been working on is solar power. I had the pleasure of meeting an executive from a company that makes flexible solar laminate. Unlike panels, the laminate is very similar to laminate flooring in that it comes in large roles, can be cut to size, and can be integrated directly into building material. This company had installed their laminate on all the roofs of the Fiera buildings. What ingenuity! Take what could be considered as worthless real estate and transform it into a profitable enterprise, which can yield returns via cash or electricity used for the building itself. For example, think about how much electricity air conditioning uses. Now think about when we use it–in the summer–when the sun is its strongest! Pure genius in my opinion. 

However, the best part about this meeting was that one of the specialists came right out and said how he did not like solar power…or renewable power in general! He will be the lead on the promotional event, which I find ironic and hilarious. Apparently he is a big fan of nuclear power (which means the recent referendum didn’t work out too well for him!). 

The other event of note at the embassy was that the Walsh University choir (from Ohio) performed in an outdoor portico at the embassy! The day before they had even performed for the pope! They sang accapella for nearly an hour, primarily religious music from all over the globe, but they ended with the Star Spangled Banner. A breeze swept through the portico during the song and I got goosebumps. The reason I am living in Italy, working for free, helping American commerce came to mind…and I felt extraordinarily patriotic. 

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