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The Miracle of the Etna Valley
Roma - (Adnkronos Multimedia) - Italian industrial districts often have very old-established roots. Most of them emerged from the core of small artisan firms which, over the course of some decades, became specialised in specific production lines. They underwent a mutual integration process and developed into true industrial firms able to compete on international markets. But a remarkable exception also exists, and this is the industrial district of Catania, Sicily - the so-called Etna Valley. In 1997, when in Catania the new ST Microelectronics factory was opened - the multinational microchip firm created by the merger between SGS Italiana and the components sector of the French firm Thomson - perhaps nobody could have imagined that only a few years on, a solid group of horizontally and vertically integrated firms would emerge from just one firm, representing a positive reference point on the Italian and European industrial panorama.
A network of relationships was developed between high technology industries, research centres, training institutes and universities, whose synergy encouraged the establishment of new activities. Over a five-year span, more than 60 entrepreneurial enterprises were established in Catania, all addressed to new technologies and capable of a high level of output in terms of research and innovation. Antech, a satellite communications firm, is a case in point. Other firms include Teleservice, operating in the telecommunications sector; Zetel, specialising in software for industrial automation; SeaSoft, producing industrial and scientific software; SistemiData, operating in the industrial software sector and STS, a leader in civil engineering software.
The last three years have witnessed further developments, caused by the decision of several large companies to establish important production divisions and research centres in the Etna Valley. Vodafone, Nokia, IBM, Nortel and Sicos have all set up business in Catania. Meanwhile the side industries generated by ST Microelectronics have prompted the development of hundreds of small and very small firms, supplying the microelectronic giant with components and equipment previously imported from abroad. There are also other sectors with a high technological content - but outside the area of electronics, information and communication technology - which find an area for potential development on the slopes of Etna. This particularly applies to Wyeth Lederle, a leading European pharmaceutical firm carrying out important research in the vaccine sector.
In just seven years, the Etna Valley has become an essential reference point in Italy's economic system: more than 1,200 firms, one thousand of them resulting from initiatives by very young local entrepreneurs; about 200 national firms which have chosen Catania to develop their businesses; and 23 multinationals. This has also resulted from the strong integration which has taken place across firms, local institutions and universities. It has allowed the companies established in the area to identify young people who are adequately trained, as well as providing incentives for new infrastructure and a drastic simplification of the administrative procedures necessary in the establishment of new firms.
A large part of the merit of this extraordinary evolution can be attributed to the commitment of local institutions, but also to a very unique man: Pasquale Pistorio. A Sicilian by birth, Pistorio, after a long period of managerial experience in the United States, took over as manager of ST Microelectronics, tenacious in his desire to give a new opportunity to the land of his birth. It was a difficult challenge which many others in the past had attempted in vain, but success was finally achieved on the slopes of the largest volcano in Europe.
Area: Province of Catania
Productive specialisation: microelectronics, ICT, biotech.
Number of towns: 58
Area: 3,500 square kilometres
Population: 1,100,000 inhabitants
Number of firms: 1,200
Sales: 1,900 million euros