Business, elected leaders on Italian economic mission to lure Fiat suppliers to Detroit area

By Corey Williams, AP
Monday, September 27, 2010

Detroit area leaders on economic mission to Italy

DETROIT — The advantages of doing business in the Detroit area is part of the sales pitch made by local elected, auto union and other leaders to Fiat suppliers during an economic mission this week in Italy.

A delegation of 21 people, including Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, United Auto Workers president Bob King and Detroit Regional Chamber President and Chief Executive Sandy Baruah arrived in Turin on Sunday.

King’s presence affirms the UAW’s commitment to being part of the discussions, according to county spokeswoman Stephanie Baron.

The group will meet with Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne and the European automaker’s Italian suppliers through Wednesday, before moving on to France on Thursday and Friday for the Paris Motor Show.

“In order to move Michigan forward, we have to leverage our assets, which includes a skilled work force, infrastructure, and accessibility to 60 percent of the nation’s population within 12 hours,” Ficano said in a Monday news release.

Wayne County faces a $100 million deficit that has led Ficano to authorize temporary layoffs for 700 employees at points throughout the summer.

The group attended a forum Monday morning with about 30 companies that supply parts to Fiat.

The trip is being paid for with private funds, Baron said.

It is opening communication with Chrysler and Fiat’s leadership, she added.

“They are giving an overview of what our region is and what we do; what our assets are that are attractive to suppliers to come here,” Baron said. “As Chrysler continues to build the Fiat brand in North America, we’re trying to provide tools they need if, and when, they decide to relocate.”

Marchionne has been running the U.S. automaker since Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy protection last year. Chrysler plans to start selling the tiny Italian-designed Fiat 500 in the U.S. starting in December.

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