The main Italian industrial clusters (there are 101 listed on the Edison Foundation Index) closed 2010 with an increase of 12.9% in their exports compared to the previous year, revealing a brusque acceleration in the fourth quarter: +19.8%.
Last year our local export systems were thus able to report a positive reaction. The ones that distinguished themselves the most were the apparel-fashion system (+13.6% during the year, +22% in the last quarter) and the mechanical-automation-other sectors (+16.8% in the year, +21.9 in the last quarter): At the local level, the best results in 2010 were reported in the districts of the automation-mechanical-other sectors in the northwest (+18.2%) and northeast (+16.6%), the hi-tech districts of the northeast (+17.8%) and south (+25.8%), apparel and fashions in the central districts (+17.9%) and in the south (+32%).
While it is true that Italy has few large industries, there is no denying the fact that in 2010 as many as 52 Italian districts exported goods relative to their sector for over 500 million euro: this is a sign that it is possible to be successful on international markets even without the so-called «global players», the great industrial giants. The truth is that there are many small and medium enterprises in the Italian districts that are exporting on dozens of markets and are «global players» to all effects except in size. Which seems to be a barrier to the internationalization of our country only in debates.
Among the larger clusters, a number performed outstandingly well in exports in 2010, such as Treviso with machinery for special uses (+57.1% compared to 2009), Pesaro Urbino with machine tools (+52.9%), Parma with its milk and dairy products (+40.8%), Brescia with machines for special uses (+38%), Lago d'Iseo with products in rubber and plastic (+37.8%), Santa Croce sull'Arno with its tanneries (+31%), Reggio Emilia with machines for general use (+29.4%), Lumezzane-Brescia with machines for general use (+25.3%). While the most brilliant year-end closures were those of Treviso-machinery for special uses (+93.1% in the last quarter), Brescia-machinery for special uses (+66.9%), Varese-machinery for special uses (+54.6%), Maranello-sportscars (+50.3%), Vergiate-aircraft (+37%), Macerata-footwear (+32,3%), Biella-textiles and apparel (+32%), Alba-wines (+30.4%) and Cadore-eyewear (+30%).
The rapid reaction after the crisis of 2009 was significant in numerous districts specialized in mechanical devices and automation, which can now be considered the key macrosector of "Made in Italy" products. The fashion sector also showed good signs of a reawakening of its exports: this indicates that the producers have no intention of surrendering and want to compete on a global market that is generally more difficult, and not just because of the differences in labor costs, but also much less transparent, with numerous cases of dumping and imitation, to the detriment of our enterprises.
The news is not all good, however.
Negative dynamics affected Carpi and Treviso in textiles and apparel, Salerno in tomato products, Manzano in chairs, Matera in sofas, Mirandola in medical devices, Reggio Emilia in farm machinery. Moreover, many districts that produce goods for the construction industry are not really seeing any kind of sustained recovery of exports, because the real estate market is still depressed in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis. However, even in these sectors there are some positive signs that testify to the evident vitality of our local systems.
A few examples are in the exports of Pesaro Urbino-furniture (+11.4% in 2010), Massa Carrara-stone cutting (+10.7%), Lago d'Orta-taps and fittings (+8.4%), Livenza Piave-furniture (+8.2%), Sassuolo-ceramic tiles (+6.9%). For a better understanding of these figures we have to bear in mind that in 2010 German exports grew by 19%, Spanish exports by 14% and French exports by 13%. This means that last year, 11 Italian apparel clusters did better than Germany, 1 in home furnishings, 2 in the food sector, 2 in hi-tech products and 14 in mechanical-automation-other sectors: a total of 30 districts. Forty-four Italian districts had increases higher than that of French exports.