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The leather history
Rome - (Adnkronos Multimedia) - An area of outstanding concentrated productivity: almost 1.800 firms throughout an area of 300 square kilometres. Almost 16 thousand employees, out of a total of employees in the industry slightly in excess of 21 thousand persons. This is the hides and skins processing district of Santa Croce sull'Arno, one of the leading realities on a European scale in the field of leather processing. Concentrated in this area, 35 percent of national production of leather takes place, amounting to 98 percent of national production and 70 percent of the European production of leather soles.
A production model characterised by a structure of small and very small firms, combined with third party activities specialised in a number of work phases. This has generated side businesses of an ever more significant dimension, constituting one of the most powerful elements in the industrial fabric of the Province of Pisa (chemical products, machinery for the processing of hides and skins, services, clothing manufacture, leather goods and shoes) and also taking over positions of leadership on a national and international level, as is the case for constructors of tanning machinery, so much so that this area represents more than one third of the entire Italian production.
The entire economy of the area, with its 90.000 inhabitants, is based on the tanning sector and on its directly and indirectly connected activities, always taken in the framework of a strong international dimension. With regard to trading flows, in fact, 75 percent of raw materials used (raw or semi-processed skins) come from European markets and from Eastern Europe. Exports, representing 53 percent of the total sales, are aimed for a quarter towards the European Community market, another quarter goes to Russia and Eastern Europe, and the remaining half to markets outside Europe, with Hong Kong, China and the United States in pole positions.
Despite the difficulties connected with the unfavourable international business trends, firms in the Santa Croce sull'Arno district have succeeded in maintaining positive development trends over recent years. This result has been made possible by the very same productive structure of the district, characterised by a high productive elasticity which has allowed for holding on to the strong accelerations and at the same time to keep up with market demand and the fashion world always through a diversification, thanks to a very high specialisation and to an extraordinary ability to integrate the individual productive units.
A further competitive advance has also come from the organisational restructuring of firms in the sector, which is not related to the ownership situations of individual firms but to the possibilities of generating strong economies of scale in phases where there is a major international competition. Numerous groups and consortia have been set up for the purchase of manufacturing components (raw materials and chemical products) to optimise marketing channels, production, research and development and logistics. On the other hand, the high technological standards of the firms in the sector have led to a remarkable expansion, both regarding the quality and the range of products offered. Today it is possible in the district to carry out the processing of all types of skins. This leads to satisfying the demand for a diversification of products connected with the fashion industry.
Finally, there is the question of protecting the environment, which for the tanning sector has always represented a problem with very broad dimensions. The solution has arrived through massive investments, thanks to which highly technological and centralised depuration plants have been erected. These have resulted, through the use of automised control systems on the quantity and quality of the water, in the introduction of a system of different tariffs, leading to rewards being given to firms emitting less pollution.
Area: Province of Pisa and Florence
Specialised production: tanning of hides and skins
Number of towns: 8
Surface area: 300 km2
Population: 90.000 inhabitants
Number of firms: 1.749
Export quota of invoices: 53 percent