10 to Watch

Davide Dukcevich

Who he is:Self-proclaimed “ham salesman” and third-generation family owner (along with his brother, Stefano) of Daniele, Inc., a Burrillville producer of fine cured meats like prosciutto …

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Who he is:
Self-proclaimed “ham salesman” and third-generation family owner (along with his brother, Stefano) of Daniele, Inc., a Burrillville producer of fine cured meats like prosciutto and salami.

Why we took notice:

  • Last year launched local line of charcuterie and meats sourced from New England hogs, with packaging designed by RISD students and recipes devised by JWU instructors. 
  • Next fall brings online a state-of-the-art, 500,000 square foot production facility that he describes as “like a spaceship from Star Wars: very white, clean, with robots running around.” 
  • Was actively courted by Virginia, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut for that expansion, but the Dukcevich family ultimately decided to invest $60 million to remain in Rhode Island.

How they made the local line work:
The old fashioned way: by building relationships and meeting people face to face. They met with farmers to find hogs to Daniele’s specifications, called on professors to engage the universities, and sold the product directly to customers at farmer’s markets.

Why this matters:
Daniele is a 60+-year-old company that’s behaving like a start-up. In doing so, it bridges the gap between Rhode Island’s traditional manufacturing economy and the new creative, knowledge-based economy it’s trying to build.

How his philosophy is different:
Dukcevich doesn’t talk much about the traditional indicators of a “business friendly environment” – like taxes and regulation – in which Rhode Island lags. Instead, he focuses more on “new economy” areas of concern – like quality of life, a pool of young talent and a creative community – in which our state is competitive.

“I think that lifestyle, more and more, is going to become one of the most important things for a modern city to be successful. Where would you rather live? Rhode Island can make a great case for itself.”

Fast fact:
The new factory will allow Daniele to dry cure one million legs of prosciutto at a time. (Its current facility can only do a quarter of that.)

Hometown pride:
Daniele’s larger conventional line sells all over the world, including Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Columbia and Mexico – and every product bears the “Made in Rhode Island” label.

The food industry’s potential for RI:
“The food industry is an unheralded but dynamic economic engine for Rhode Island. And it could be much stronger. I would love to cultivate entrepreneurship in our field. I’m a huge fan of food incubators, where people who have an idea for a food product can rent kitchen space and make their idea a reality… We would love for Rhode Island to have a recognizable food brand. Vermont has done a terrific job branding its agricultural products. Rhode Island could study that model and create its own brand – centered on food production and preparation… We have all the ingredients to become the Silicon Valley of food.”

How to encourage college students to remain in RI after graduation:
“Whenever I meet students at Johnson & Wales, I encourage them to stay in Rhode Island and take advantage of the state’s fertile culinary scene. It’s much easier for a single person to leave a mark in Rhode Island than it is in a big city like New York. Your contributions will be much more pronounced here – you can improve the entire city with a single great restaurant.”

How the next governor can help:
“I’d love for the next governor to shine a spotlight on Rhode Island’s food industry – even small, symbolic gestures like shopping at a farmer’s market, or being photographed sipping Granny Squibb’s Iced Tea; serving Narragansett Creamery mozzarella and Blackbird Farms Angus at state dinners when dignitaries are in town; publicly taking advantage of Restaurant Week, or eating at a food truck.”

What’s next for Daniele:
Stay tuned on January 16, when the company announces a very big success for its local line that’s currently under press embargo.

Follow Davide on Twitter @DanieleInc