Last week I received an e-mail from the Italian Consulate asking for my availability to answer a set of questions from a questionnaire. The questions were part of a survey of Italian companies in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. I was pleasantly surprised. This was the first “business” contact with the Consulate my company had ever had. The person behind this change of style is the new Consul General Fabrizio Marcelli. He came to San Francisco just a few weeks ago and the Italian community is already noticing the difference. People who went to the Italian Consulate offices on Pacific Heights are now sharing stories of efficiency, organization, and a service-oriented approach. The old jokes about the Italian Consulate that have been circulating among Italians for decades are becoming suddenly obsolete. I personally asked the new Consul for an interview in order to get to know him and to facilitate a direct dialog with the Italian business community. Here is the interview. Thank you Consul.
Fabrizio, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your professional experience?
I have served in various capacities in the Italian Diplomatic Service. This in San Francisco is my first assignment in the United States. My previous posts abroad have been in Argentina (twice), Madagascar and Germany. In particular, my consular expertise is based on my professional experiences both as head of a Consulate and as coordinator of a major national consular network.
Do you have some information or data you can share that would give us a better picture of the Italian community under your jurisdiction?
The impression I have gathered in this first month in San Francisco is that although Italians in the Bay Area are not as numerous as in other parts of the United States, they nonetheless are a major component of the cultural identity of the Bay Area. There are 12,780 Italian citizens registered with our consulate (our district includes seven states of the Pacific Northwest and a large part of California). Of these, over 9,000 reside in the 48 California counties that fall within our jurisdiction. Besides the San Francisco Bay Area, the Italian community in California is concentrated in the Sacramento area.
What are the major problems you currently face at the Consulate and what are your plans to address them?
My very first priority is to reorganize the Consulate. We have massive arrears in many areas. Also, due to a protracted lack of personnel, we have several hundreds applications for citizenship by descendants of Italian immigrants in the US waiting to be analyzed and sent to Italy for registration. The same applies to certificates relating to vital statistics (DATA). The visa, legal and passport sections are up to date. In addition, we are also striving to “resuscitate” the commercial office.
As the youngest Italian Consul to come to San Francisco, your presence raises large expectations from the Italian community. What changes can be reasonably expected from the Consulate?
Thank you for considering me still young at 47. I hope not to disappoint our community. Their high expectations are justified by the arrival of a new Consul General. Mi initial effort will focus in reviewing the procedures used by consular personnel in order to find all possible ways of improving our processes and turn around time. I also involved in promoting the image of the Consulate through contacts with local entrepreneurs, authorities and organizations. I hope that the Consulate will become a full protagonist in the life of San Francisco and of the Bay Area. To this end, the Italian Cultural Institute, whose acting director is the capable and dynamic Valeria Rumori, can play a very important role.
In the local Italian community there is always a sort of unexpressed desire to give back to the motherland. What can the Consulate and the Italian community do to facilitate this flow of ideas, experiences, and business toward Italy?
There is much that they can contribute. As I said before, the “high-added value” of the Italians living in and around San Francisco requires a special attention by the Consulate in terms of efficiency and rapidity of services that we usually provide. I hope that those who use are consular services and are also involved with advanced technologies and software will be willing to give us their suggestions to improve our services and the interactive services available in our web page.
You mentioned a few times that California and San Francisco are not getting the attention they deserve in the relationship between Italy and US. What can be done to change that?
When I arrived in San Francisco, I was surprised by the large number of Italian entrepreneurs, researchers and University professors who settled in the Bay Area in these last years. It is my intention to have this community adequately represented in Italy. The first opportunity to do so is offered by the visit to San Francisco of the Italian Ambassador in Washington, Giovanni Castellaneta. We have organized for him an entire day dedicated to visiting UC Berkeley and the Silicon Valley, with a meeting including all researchers and entrepreneurs active in high tech sectors in this region. I also hope that a journalist will be willing to report on the history of the Italian presence in the Silicon Valley, starting with the important contributions given by the pioneers, many of whom were originally Olivetti employees, to the significant influx of young engineers in most recent years.
I would like to thank the Italian Consul General in San Francisco Fabrizio Marcelli for taking the time for this interview and introducing himself to the Italian community this way. If you would like to share your ideas, experiences, and opinions with the Consulate, you are encouraged to visit BAIA Link, the online BAIA community, where we have a section of our forum dedicated to this dialog.