AHEPA Greece Solon Chapter Seminar Focuses on Boosting Exports

(Photo: Courtesy of Lisa Radinovsky)

HALKIDA – AHEPA Greece’s Solon HJ-04 Chapter recently presented, in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce of the Island of Evoia, a seminar on increasing Greek agricultural exports to the United States.

It was emphasized that potential and resources exist, but knowledge and best practices are often lacking in Greece. Local entrepreneurs and officials were therefore eager to learn from the members of two expert panels which included Ilias Spirtounias, Managing Director of the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce (Amcham), Paul Kotrotsios – via Skype from the United States – Founder and President of Hermes Expo, Constantine Drougos, CEO of Agro Marketing International and Board Member of New York-based EMBCA, Jenny Skotidi, Director of Simply Exports, and HJ-04 members Michael Galiatsatos, President of Cargo360, Manos Kapetanakis, economic and commercial consultant, Grigorios Papaioannou, and attorney Christos Faslis, who served as moderator for the first panel.

Journalist Konstantinos Bogdanos moderated the second panel, and the guests were welcomed by Faslis, who introduced Alexander Drivas, PhD candidate researching U.S.-Greece relations at Panteion University, the event’s organizer along with chapter President George Malamo and VP Yiannis Doulopoulos.

Greetings were offered by Paraskevi Agiostratiti, president of the Chamber, Simos Kedikoglou, New Democracy MP for Evoia, who congratulated Malamo and the chapter, Fanis Spanos, Deputy Governor of the Region of Central Greece, and Christos Pagonis, Mayor of Halkida.

Pagonis noted the importance of the event for the region because, as many echoed, it is not enough for the region to have high quality products – international markets must be informed about them – local entrepreneurship and knowledge of those markets and their participants must be strengthened.

Kedikoglou, who praised Ahepa for its mission and success in the United States, declared that the event and similar initiatives are important “so a Greek can begin to hope and look towards a better future – a Greek version of the American dream,” and urged that, “We must not dwell on our mistakes, but learn from them and improve ourselves,” and that in general and especially in the United States, “we must focus on good follow-up.”

Kedikoglou, who was a deputy minister in the Samaras government, told TNH he was very pleased with the event because “the success of ND depends of the success of business leaders and workers. When firms and jobs are created, we succeed…we have a full program for promoting investment, contrary to the hostile attitude of the current government, and to proceed with structural reforms, especially of the justice system, and most importantly, the simplification of the bureaucratic process.” He said a separate ministry for investment will be created that will work closely with the Prime Minister.

A number of participants told TNH that Kedikoglou’s comments offered hope for Greece taking rapid strides under a new government.

Kapetanakis noted the importance of cooperation, even among competitors, in order for Greece to boost its exports by building its national brand.

Drougos spoke about the importance of the additional steps needed to attract investment to Greece, warning, “if we can’t get Greek-Americans to invest in Greece, how can we expect foreigners to invest?” He also said global success demands a stronger risk-taking culture, spreading expertise in the countryside, and greater cooperation, noting the EU has helpful programs and that Evoia has great agricultural potential – other guests said help and guidance from friends and relatives in American were welcome.

Galiatsatos shared his expertise about logistics and gave an overview of Greek food products, praising their quality and variety while noting the vital importance of research on American markets that is often neglected. He illustrated what he meant by greater cooperation when he noted that different companies can lower transport costs if they help fill each other’s ship containers.

Spirtounias’ comments were especially comprehensive and to the point, emphasizing cooperation and strengthening Greek entrepreneurship. He spotlighted the value of AmCham initiatives at home and abroad, including some 20 workshops held throughout Greece, major events in London and Athens, and annual U.S. investment roadshows that are part of its ongoing efforts to strengthen U.S.-Greece commercial relations.

His comments were a blend of constructive criticism, highlighting the positives –  noting, for example, that

Greece is the #2 exporter to the United States of kiwis and #1 for olives, which are in high demand in the pizza industry. There are opportunities in specialty foods if pursued properly, and he emphasized the importance of consistency. “Slip one time and you are out of the market,” he warned.

Skotidi made a detailed and much-appreciated presentation on relevant processes and elements, such as insurance – which Doulopoulos followed up on – payments systems, elaborated on by Grigorios Papaioannou and letters of credit. She also noted the importance for firms to use financial resources wisely and to balance national and international marketing. Speaking to the related balance between production for home and foreign markets, Spirtounias said the public and private sector must also work on expanding production.

Skyping greetings and congratulations from America, Kotrotsios highlighted the B2B contacts established by participants at the most recent Hermes Expo conference and expressed his eagerness to help established businesses and industries, and to develop new ones, such as medical tourism

SOLON AWARDS GALA ON MAY 11

The Solon hJ-04 chapter is excited about its upcoming Gala dinner on Saturday, May 11 at the Yacht Club of Greece featuring the presentation of the Solon Awards for Education, Hellenism and Philanthropy.

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