Cluster export drives the recovery, with the Northeast in the lead
Cluster export drives the recovery, with the Northeast in the lead
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Cluster export drives the recovery, with the Northeast in the lead

In the first quarter of 2011, there was a 15% rise with peaks of over 30% in automation, engineering, rubber and plastics. Once again, the doom-and-gloomers have been proven wrong.

by Marco Fortis (who is)


In the first quarter of 2011, exports for the 101 main industrial clusters monitored by the Fondazione Edison index, were 16.6 billion euros, up 15% on the same period in 2010, thus consolidating the recovery already registered in 2010 (+12.8%). Nine clusters saw an increase of over 30%, and all of them are part of the automation/engineering/rubber/plastics sector, confirming it to be the "driver" for exports. Twenty-one showed an increase of between 20% and 30%, 23 growth of between 10% and 20%, another 23 registered an improvement of between 5% and 10% and 11 an increase of less than 5%, while only 14 experienced further slight declines. Automation/engineering/rubber/plastics registered the best performance, with a growth in exports of 23.2%. Behind this was clothing/fashion with an increase of 14.5%, hi-tech up 13.4%, home furnishings up 6.2% and food/wines up 3.6%. Among the 20 clusters with the strongest growth, were four others (once again part of  automation/engineering/rubber/plastics), for a total of 13 clusters in this area out of a total of 20. They are part of the specialized machinery sector in Treviso (+142,3%), Brescia (+57.5%), Vicenza (39.4%), Bologna (+37.3%), Padua (+31.3%) and Varese (+30.3%); the machine tools cluster in Pesaro-Urbino (+65.4%) and Rimini (+31.3%); taps and fittings in Lumezzane (+31.7%); packaging machinery in Bologna (+29.4%); metalworking in Como (+26.8%); and plastics and rubber in Alessandria (+25.8%) and Iseo Lake area (+23.7%). Thus, engineering clusters have begun moving once again, belying forecasts of an irreversible decline in manufacturing. Among the 20 strongest-growing clusters were also the 5 clusters in the clothing/fashion sector: the Florence leather cluster (+28.3%), the textile/clothing in Perugia (+28.1%), Valsesia (+27.2%) and Biella (+23.8%) and tanned leather in Arzignano (+25.7%).



There were also two food/wine clusters, the one of oils around Florence (26.9%) and Siena wines (+25.9%). However, there were no home furnishings or hi-tech sectors among the 20 strongest. But there was good export recovery in the ornamental stone clusters in Massa Carrara (+21.1%) and Pietrasanta (+17%), as well as the furniture cluster of Livenza near Pordenone (+11.7%), Livenza-Piave near Treviso (+8.5%) and near Pesaro (+8.4%), while those where problems persist included the ceramic sanitary ware cluster in Civita Castellana (-7.9%), chairs in Manzano (-4%) and sofas in Matera (-3.3%). In terms of hi-tech, the cars of Maranello did well (+22.4%) as well as pharmaceuticals in Latina (+19.7%). Still on the negative side were biomedical exports from Mirandola (-3.4%).

Finally, analysis from a geographical standpoint showed a divergence between North and South. Those districts manifesting the biggest increase in exports were the 38 of the Northeast (+17.4%), followed by the 23 in the Center (+14.7%) and 33 in the Northwest (+13.8%); the 7 clusters in the South and islands experienced a drop of -3.5%, due primarily to the poor trend in the tomato products cluster around Salerno (-15.8%), but also the negative performance of the footwear cluster in Casarano Tricase (-29.1%) and sofas in Matera (-3.3%). Cross-mapping sectors and geographical areas showed that the best results were those of the automation/engineering/rubber/plastics cluster in the Northeast, with growth at a full 33.2%. This was followed by the hi-tech and food/wine clusters in the Center (+19.7% and +18.8%), automation/engineering/rubber/plastics in the Northwest (+17.9%), hi-tech in the Northeast (+17%) and clothing/fashion in the Center (+15.9%) and Northwest (+15.8%).


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