President, St Louis - Bologna Sister Cities
The World Trade Center of St Louis hosted its annual convention Growing Global on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 at the Ritz Carlton in Clayton, Missouri. The conference brings thousands of individuals and businesses together from around the world in what is St Louis' largest and most high profiled international event. As the president of the St Louis - Bologna Sister Cities organization, I was humbled to represent Italian interests in the St Louis region. I had the chance to speak with former Mayor Francis Slay and County Executive Sam Page, both of whom expressed their interest in St Louis' growing Italian population. The purpose of the St Louis - Bologna Sister Cities organization is not only cultural but also economic. Bologna is the capital of Emilia-Romagna, known as the breadbasket of Italy. Agriculture thrives in this rich area and consequently, Emilia Romagna is known as a great gastronomic center of Europe. St Louis, with major agricultural companies and institutions such as Bunge, ItalgraniUSA, Bayer/Monsanto, and the Danforth Plant Science Center, is at the center of America's agricultural sector.
It seems as if a relation between these two cities was always meant to be. Seeing that local government officials are interested in the growth of the Italian expat community, it is looking as if the cervelli in fuga phenomenon may continue the brain drain that Italy has been experiencing for the last decades. Will there be more Italian based ag sector businesses moving to St Louis in the next few years? That remains to be seen. As for our part, the St Louis - Bologna Sister Cities will continue to encourage interest in relations between our two cities and regions regarding ag-tech and ag-science ventures.
The Italian Community of St Louis has been growing at a rapid pace in the past three years due to strong leadership and a growing economy. In the past decade alone several hundred Italian nationals have relocated to the St Louis area according to reports from the Italian Consulate of Chicago.
On Saturday, August 17, the community along with the St Louis - Bologna Sister Cities and the club Italiano Per Piacere, hosted a celebration of Ferragosto at Shaw Park in the St Louis suburb of Clayton. Over 200 people attended, many of them Italian exchange students and post-docs from local universities such as Washington University and Saint Louis University. Much fun was had by all.
Many of the participants this year were newcomers to St Louis, a city located in the center of the United States and a hub for the agricultural technology sector. Several young Italian professionals stated that they worked for the Danforth Plant Science Center and Bayer which has just bought out Monsanto. Others came to St Louis as entrepreneurs and have begun their own private businesses such as Giorgio Bucci who is CEO of Arteco Global, an IT company which sells video surveillance software.
Representatives of two local media outlets, FOX2 News and a local Italian-American newspaper Il Pensiero, were present interviewing members of the Italian community. PURUS VODKA, a sponsor of the event was also present providing Italian inspired cocktails. The company has its headquarters in St Louis while its production remains in the northwest province of Piemonte using water from the Alps to produce a distinguished vodka.
Italian karaoke was most likely the most memorable highlight of the evening for guests of all ages. Nothing was formal about the event as is the case with any ferragosto party. Coming down from Chicago to St Louis, I was slightly skeptical about how large of an Italian community St Louis could have. Now I'm thinking about moving to the Gateway City.