If you ask the president of the Province of Modena what he hopes to gain from an informal association with Salt Lake County, he'll tell you in Italian that it's good for business.
If you ask his American counterpart the same question, he'll tell you the same thing - but in English."We have interests in business, research, culture and education that could benefit from trade and exchanges with corresponding institutions in Salt Lake County," explained Giuliano Barbolini, who is leading a delegation of 20 Modenese political and business leaders on a working tour of their new sister county.
"There is enormous potential for trade and cultural exchanges between us," said County Commission Chairman D. Michael Stewart. "I believe that we can learn a great deal from each other."
The Italian delegation arrived late Saturday and spent Sunday touring the Salt Lake Valley, beginning with Utah's most popular tourist attraction, Temple Square, and then moving on to the Cathedral of the Madeleine, the Kennecott Copper pit and the Great Salt Lake.
"Tourism," said Barbolini, "is an area where we both have much to offer."
Modena and Salt Lake County have a lot in common, according to Barbolini: They are about the same size, are similarly dependent upon small- and moderate-size businesses, and both are relying heavily upon research for economic development and upon outside trade for economic expansion.
"We discovered in our earliest contacts that there were many close parallels," Stewart said. "I think we've just scratched the surface of the business potential for both of us."
The commissioner envisions regular exchanges of business and education expertise. "They have a philosophy and practical programs that encourage the success of small businesses. Very few of their businesses fail, while here we have 40 percent failure rate," Stewart said. "I think we could learn a lot from them about how to assist our businesses."
The Italians, meanwhile, say the Utahns offer a wealth of knowledge in biomedical engineering and advanced technology. They are especially eager to meet with University of Utah research officials.
"On this trip, we are getting acquainted with the many people with whom we will be discussing these interests in the future," Barbolini said. "This is not just a social visit."
"No, they wanted to get right down to brass tacks," added Stewart, saying the delegations talked business over lunch Sunday.
Asked about Salt Lake City's bid for the Olympics, Barbolini said Italians know from experience that the Olympics are good for business and he wished the city luck. "But, of course, we would still wish victory to the Italian teams even though our sister county was hosting the Games," he laughed.
On other subjects, the Modenese leader said he views the impending European Economic Community as a natural step in an increasingly competitive global market. Italians generally support the move, he said.