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Industrial district of Matera
Rome - (Adnkronos Multimedia) - A case which is perhaps unique on the panorama of industrial initiatives in the Italian Mezzogiorno, which over the course of less than forty years has witnessed the transformation of the output of a handful of artisans into an integrated system of firms exporting all over the world. This is the industrial district for upholstered furniture in Murge, the geographic area stretching from Matera in the Basilicata region as far as Puglia and the verges of Bari. More than 500 firms active in the production of sofas and armchairs, with a total figure of around 14 thousand employees and sales of not less than 1.400 million euro, most of which on the international market.
The history of this productive district began at the end of the Fifties in an area including Matera, Altamura and Santeramo in Colle, which at that time did not have any established industrial tradition. During those years a first nucleus of small artisan enterprises specialised in carpentry and upholstery was formed, producing upholstered furniture in small series, destined above all for the Lucania and Puglia market, which were part of the lowest economic market band. Around this small but well-established centre of productive activity the first shoots of industrial initiatives began to emerge. A number of artisans, on the crest of a wave of success for their products, began to develop the first production lines in series, exploiting a number of positive local traditions, above all in the leather-working sector. This policy continued up to the Sixties and Seventies, then marked by the establishment of an integrated productive fabric and gave a date to the birth of an industrial region when some entrepreneurs took up the challenge involved in a diversification of the range of models offered and a transformation of the productive system. An innovative process at 360 degrees, touching on processing technologies, product design, and above all, organisational and managerial aspects. An almost total standardisation of products was achieved: different phases of work were delegated to external contractors; the wooden frames for sofas were produced by specialised firms, upholstering by others, dressing and leather-cutting by others. The mother firm could therefore proceed directly to the assembly of the sofas, using productive systems in series, not unlike those used in the vehicle industry.
Reaching maturity under a productive and organisational profile, the industrial system for upholstered furniture in Murge was therefore able to pull off, beginning in the Eighties, the great leap towards
international markets, being able to offer good quality products at very competitive prices. At the head were a number of firms: Natuzzzi, today the leading world producer of leather sofas, as well as Calia, Nicoletti and the Flep Group, which also represent a driving force for the smaller firms and, above all, the huge side business of firms producing the raw materials. A period of sustained growth has thus begun for production and exports. Today 55 percent of Italian production of upholstered furniture is made in the Murge district, taking up about 11 percent of the world market in the sector. Of this, 80 percent of local production is destined for international markets.
It was only starting from 2001 that a slowing down in this development began, caused by the international crisis and the currently unfavourable euro/dollar exchange rate. Therefore a process has begun to review marketing targets through a gradual move towards the medium-high market bands, on which the entrepreneurs of Murge are counting to re-launch their firms.
Area: Province of Matera and Bari
Specialised production: upholstered furniture
Numer of towns: 6
Surface area: 1,200 km°
Population: 160,000 inhabitants
Numer of firms: 530
Sales export quota: 80 percent