Thinking about Italy and Ireland

What business does Italy and Ireland have in Rhode Island – except for Federal Hill and Irish pubs? It turns out that the answer is more than you may initially think. Governor Chafee and Commerce RI Executive Director Marcel A. Valois recently returned from a productive, whirlwind trade mission to both Italy and Ireland, meeting with businesses, specialty schools and international leaders to promote economic opportunity in the Ocean State and strengthen our international presence.

Irish Prime Minister

Governor Chafee talks with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.


Donald R. Sweitzer, chairman of GTECH Corporation, participated in the trade mission as a business ambassador for the state while Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) President and CEO Kelly J. Fredericks joined the delegation in Ireland.

Executive Director Valois said, “Rhode Island must be in the game. We must continue to connect with the global market to develop new opportunities that will help our business community thrive. With ourdiverse business framework and strategic location in the Northeast, Rhode Island is well positioned to increase international trade, which will strengthen the state’s economy and create jobs. Rhode Island has made the right investments in T.F. Green Airport, freight rail and our ports, which gives us the capability to connect people and cargo overseas and across the United States. These are very attractive selling points when we talk to businesses and leaders in potential new markets.”

The group discussed growth opportunities and areas of mutual cooperation with companies interested in doing business in Rhode Island. The companies spanned various industries: manufacturing, transportation, food production, hospitality, renewable energy and technology. The proximity to Boston and New York makes Rhode Island an ideal location to transport both goods and people into the thriving New England region.


Knock Airport

Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council John O’Malley welcomes Governor Chafee to Knock Airport.

Rhode Island’s delegation had initial discussions with representatives from the Shannon Airport Authority and Ireland West Airport Knock about the potential for direct connections between T.F. Green Airport and Ireland for both freight and passenger traffic. This is a direct result of state investment in T.F. Green Airport and the surrounding area.

Mayo County

David Minton (Local Enterprise Office, Mayo County Council), Joe Gilmore (managing director, Ireland West Airport Knock), John Magee (Local Enterprise Office, Mayo County Council), R.I. Governor Lincoln Chafee, Cllr John O’Malley (Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council), Kelly Fredericks (president and CEO, T.F. Green Airport Rhode Island), Cllr Cyril Bourke, Marcel Valois (executive director, Commerce RI) (L-R)

RIAC President and CEO Fredericks said, “There are many similarities between Shannon Airport and T. F. Green, and we believe strongly that there are both near-term and long-term opportunities to link the two facilities via cargo and passenger flights. We are very excited to be partnering with the Shannon Airport Authority as we jointly pursue these future possibilities. There is enormous potential for links between the two regions. Knock is on our radar screen as well. We are continuing to grow our airport, and Knock is looking very attractive to us; it represents a unique opportunity and a big market for us.”


Governor Chafee, Executive Director Valois and Chairman Sweitzer met with several manufacturers in Italy and Ireland who are interested in entering the U.S. market:

  • Getra (Italy) – A global electrical energy company that builds a variety of electrical transformers
  • Greencore Group (Ireland) – Governor Chafee was able to personally thank Greencore executives for their recent commitment to build a food manufacturing facility in Rhode Island.

Governor Chafee tours the Getra facility in Italy.


Commerce RI Executive Director Marcel Valois, a Greencore executive, R.I. Governor Lincoln Chafee, Greencore CEO Patrick Coveney (L-R)

Manufacturers and small production operations (Ireland):

  • SELC Ireland Limited
  • Malone Farm Machinery
  • Monaghan Brothers
  • Foxford Woollen Mills

Renewable Energy

Given the governor’s and Executive Director Valois’ focus on mitigating the effects of climate change on the Rhode Island economy, the renewable energy industry is becoming increasing vital. The group met with two renewable energy companies in Italy:

  • Ropatec – Manufactures highly-efficient vertical axis wind turbines
  • Tegole Solare – Manufactures photovoltaic solar cells that are embedded in roof tiles

Governor Chafee speaks with Ropatek Chairman Robert Niederkofler.



  • GTECH/Lottomatica (Italy) – Senior management of GTECH/Lottomatica, including Chairman Sweitzer, discussed the corporation’s global expansion and GTECH’s continued growth in Providence with Governor Chafee and Executive Director Valois.
  • TSEM (Italy) – They also visited TSEM, a research and engineering company that has developed a number of technologically advanced concepts such as a battery storage system and a magnetic resonance medical device.

Food Production

  • Kimbo (Italy) – The second largest espresso coffee player in the Italian market with a presence in 52 countries
  • Iman Casings Ireland Ltd. (Ireland) – Processes natural casings for the food industry

The R.I. delegation learns about Kimbo Coffee.

Kimbo (3)

Governor Chafee and Marcel Valois tour the Kimbo facility in Italy.



  • Scuola Alberghiera Kaiserhof (Italy) – The delegation toured Scuola Alberghiera Kaiserhof, a public high school in Italy that prepares youth for entry into university-level culinary and hospitality management programs. They discussed the opportunities for Johnson and Wales University to establish a relationship for both student and faculty exchanges.
  • Galivm Restaurant Chain (Italy) – The group dined at this local Italian restaurant chain while discussing the possibility of opening their first U.S. restaurant in Rhode Island.

While in Rome, the delegation took the opportunity to visit the Rhode Island School of Design’s campus – housed in a centuries-old palazzo – to meet with faculty and students studying abroad for the semester as part of the school’s European Honors Program.


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