Flurry of US activity at Thessaloniki Fair

Flurry of US activity at Thessaloniki Fair

The support of the American business community for Greece is being underscored by the plethora of deals revealed in the context of the ongoing 83rd Thessaloniki International Fair, where the United States is the country of honor.

As US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross stressed during the energy conference organized by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) on Friday just hours before the fair’s opening, the presence of major American companies at the TIF is a sign of trust in the future of Greece’s economy and of America’s desire to be a part of it.

After a flurry of energy-related investment deals announced at that conference, on Saturday ONEX Shipyards of Greek-American entrepreneur Panos Xenocostas expressed an interest in the acquisition of the two main Attica shipyards, in Skaramangas and Elefsina. In a letter to the Greek government, ONEX has proposed the en bloc acquisition of the two shipyards, and Xenocostas told Kathimerini that ONEX is interested both in the commercial and the military sections of the Skaramangas Shipyards. The US Embassy in Athens greeted the expression of interest by ONEX, saying it is wonderful to see the announcement of a US investment in Greece. More such announcements of US moves in Greece are expected in the course of the week.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, along with Ross, US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt and the head of AmCham, Simos Anastasopoulos, officially inaugurated the US pavilion on Saturday.

Officials pointed particularly to the fair’s focus on innovation, with the pavilion of Greek innovation companies (No 12) positioned near the US pavilion (No 13) at the fair. Tsipras paid a visit to the Greek innovation pavilion and spoke with a number of young entrepreneurs in the presence of Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas.

New ideas and applications are the focus of the US pavilion, which throughout its operation when the fair’s curtain goes down on Sunday, September 16, will include an Innovation Hub: This is a laboratory at the center of the pavilion that features a “digital classroom area” hosting digital skills workshops, coding courses, meet-ups and open discussions. Every afternoon features a series of Innovation Talks – casual open sessions and workshops by venture capitals, established technology entrepreneurs and prominent figures of the wider startup innovation ecosystem – all aimed at inspiring and connecting the next generation of innovators. The Hub is co-organized by Found.ation and the US Embassy in Greece.

Found.ation and the US Embassy are further preparing an Innovation Bootcamp, titled “Business Engineering 101", from Wednesday through Saturday. This will be an educational hackathon on agro, travel and urban tech for developers, designers, business developers and marketeers, who will create and develop their ideas over a short, but intense, period of time at the OK!Thess Accelerator. Organizers say that each team will have the freedom to innovate, working on a unique idea that can make a difference. Mentors will support the teams throughout the bootcamp by guiding the creative and development process and judges will determine the winners based on their progress.

On Thursday and Friday, the Vellideio Hall in Thessaloniki will also host the “Digital Influencers Hub Forum,” a two-day event that will focus on current trends and the latest developments in social impact influencer spaces and the way digital information technologies are reshaping communication and societal behavior, throughout the world.

AmCham, which has skillfully organized the US pavilion, is holding two significant conferences. On Monday at 3 p.m. it is hosting its third ExportUSA Forum at the fair, themed “FoodUSA: Innovation & Disruption is ON,” which will be solely focused on the US food industry. On Wednesday it will host the “Cyber Security and Data Protection: Risks and challenges in technologically disruptive times” conference, at Vellideio from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.