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INNOVATION AND TRADITION:THE OUTSTANDING QUALITY OF THE LOMBARD AEROSPACE INDUSTRY
150 businesses, 14,500 employees, a 3.8 million annual turnover in 2008 and 35% of national export in the sector: these few figures are sufficient to give an understanding of the size and relevance of the Lombard aerospace industry. The new data from the census of its production system conducted by the committee promoting the creation of the Lombard Aerospace District is better than had been forecasted last year. There is an industrial reality along the Varese-Milan axis (where most of the firms in the sector are concentrated) whose importance is acknowledged even beyond the confines of Italy. Small local businesses coexist here alongside large international companies that have chosen to have an operational base in Lombardy, in a context in which tradition lives in harmony with innovation (the aerospace industry already had a foothold in Lombardy at the start of the 20th century).
One of the distinctive features of the Lombard production area is its capacity for creating complete aircraft, rather than just parts, within its own territory. This is due in part to the large industry players, who are world leaders in their own reference markets, such as AgustaWestland, Alenia Aermacchi, Carlo Gavazzi Space, Selex Galileo, Gemelli and Aerea, but also to a close network of medium and small scale firms that create components commissioned by other companies or products ready for marketing.
The latest study by the committee for the constitution of the aerospace district shows that the production system is divided into three levels. The first of these consists of companies that make fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, as well as completely integrated satellites. The companies on this first level have an overall turnover of 1.7 billion per year. The second level is formed by companies that make systems and equipment, which including groups and sub-groups account for an annual turnover of 958 million Euros. On the third level are firms that work on semi-finished products and unfinished parts, with an estimated turnover of 876 million Euros. In addition, at the base of the system's production pyramid, there is the supply of metal raw materials, plastic materials, combustibles, oils, sealants, paints and detergents, together with specialised services.
The Lombard aerospace sector has experienced sustained growth in recent years, increasing its turnover by 900 million in two years (from 2.9 billion in 2006 to 3.8 in 2008). The increase in earnings has been accompanied by a marked increase in the size of the workforce. This had grown from 13,178 employees in 2006 to the current figure of 14,554, an increase of 10%, with university graduates forming 35% of the new intake in the most highly specialised companies.
Another characteristic trait of the Lombard Aerospace companies is their decidedly international inclination, with a positive export trend for the first nine months of 2009, in spite of the crisis. The companies that make up this potential future industrial district have in fact shown their resistance to negative trends, with exports reaching a value of 1.1 billion Euros, a 17.2% growth compared to levels in the same period last year. The distinctive feature of the Lombard Aerospace companies’ exports is their global character. There are already firmly established routes to the USA and Great Britain, whereas the Middle East is prominent among other expanding export destinations.