Rovigo, strengths and prospects
The provincial territory is characterized by productive excellence in the field of fish farming and logistics, but the mechanical industry as well can claim some important centers. Agricultural mechanics is represented by important companies working in different product segments, from tractors to components. Services and the transport system are competitive and a strategic connection with the University and the training centers has been developed. However, the problem of finding labor and professional figures persists
The Italian North East is known, even abroad, as the territory of the industrial miracle of the 80s and 90s. But behind this miracle, there is a vast flat area with an agricultural vocation. It is no coincidence that in the province of Rovigo alone (240 thousand inhabitants) there are about a dozen companies directly dedicated to the production of agricultural machinery and related components. As you can imagine, the area also represents a big market for who sells this machinery, given that there are around a hundred contracting companies. On average, in fact, farms are small therefore they prefer services for fieldwork, rather than locking up the investment to buy a machine. If their birth was inspired by the agricultural heart of the local economy, these agro-mechanical companies have now an international scope that goes far beyond the national borders. “In this area above all implement have developed - explains Giampaolo Bellotto of Carraro firm and councilor of Assotrattori (FederUnacoma) - that is to say the equipment that makes a machine suitable for performing the various farming operations. They are also craft firms developing highly specialized solutions to be integrated with tractors. Therefore, they work together with large machine manufacturers providing the quality and legal certifications granted by industry”. Bellotto mentions the example of nuts, a crop that in Rovigo reaches important numbers and for which it was necessary to develop a customized tractor with special tires and specific protections outside the vehicle. All implements produced by local companies, in collaboration with the same Carraro who then integrated these changes into their machinery, which were then proposed on the international market meeting the interest of foreign farms. But in what context does this sector fit in? How can we define the economic profile of this territory, which is often merged with neighboring Venice, so much that it is headed by a single Chamber of Commerce? Even Confindustria has a single association “of Venice and Rovigo”.
In the whole province, there are 26.000 registered companies with an active workforce of about 100.000 employees corresponding to around 40% of the entire population (238.000 inhabitants). A percentage that must also be assessed considering the high incidence of elderly compared to workers. A number higher than the average, but in line with the aging trend of the Italian population and which requires some thoughts on what are the needs of the community to which an answer must be given in the coming years. The Rovigo citizens have always shown great resourcefulness that has led them to engage in very different sectors. The historic sector of agriculture has evolved and has given rise to activities that are not limited to the production of machinery but mainly concern services for farms. Then, in the last decades, Rovigo has developed at least two excellences: fish farming, with related industries, and logistics. A district should also be mentioned, that is little known to the general public, and that is wrongly considered a niche of little importance, but which is certainly unique in the world: the Fairground Ride District, in the municipality of Bergantino. The numbers are not trivial: 70 companies with a turnover of around 250 million euros and 500 direct employees in addition to related businesses. This is where almost all the panoramic wheels and rides in the world are produced. This is a highly specialized sector, which even struggles to find skilled workers and exports about half of its production. These are generally craft businesses, also because leisure equipment is certainly not produced on assembly lines and in thousands, but they still have high technological content and are based on many patents precisely developed by these companies. Features, moreover, that can also be found in the agro-mechanical sector: heavy metallurgy production but with highly innovative technology. More significant numbers for the two leading sectors of Rovigo. Fish farming and logistics. In the first case, we are talking about a total annual turnover of 850 million euros with 3.000 companies and 8.000 employees between Rovigo and Chioggia. A leadership explained by the ability to make system, to use a popular expression but that gives the idea of how around a product, fish, different but similar and, above all, integrated enterprises have grown: sea fishing and fish farming represent the engine of the entire sector; but then the processing industry, has developed, reaching the production of ready-made sauces, and that of the logistics of the sector. Today, Rovigo hosts the largest fish sorting platform from all over Europe. Logistics, then, is an independent territorial asset due to its geographical position and a network of connections developed smartly. The Interporto of Rovigo, for example, can handle goods arriving and leaving on road, rail and even from the river. To these structural advantages - points out Confindustria - economic competitiveness shall be added that, for example, allows to propose prices less than half of what is spent, for example, in the nearby Verona, which also boasts a leading logistics structure.
All these favorable conditions, however, did not prevent some municipalities in the province of Rovigo from returning to the disadvantaged areas for which it was possible to request the establishment of a ZES (SEZ), Special Economic Zone. In these areas, thanks to an agreement with the European Union in 2014, tax and social security benefits are granted: Irap and Ires are eliminated and there is also talk of possible interventions on VAT. These benefits are in derogation of the ban on State aid that applies throughout the EU. The Ve-Ro ZES project, which should involve 2.5 billion investments for a total of 26.000 new jobs, is carried out by Confindustria Venezia-Rovigo but it will then be up to the Government to approve it, together with the Veneto Region. Why a territory within one of the richest areas of Italy should be considered “disadvantaged”? “Rovigo has always been a bit ‘the Cinderella of Veneto -Confindustria replies - in the past, it was already included among the areas of industrial and rural decline. It has not completely overcome this disadvantage, and the economic indicators, such as per capita income, unemployment, etc., make it clear that the Polesine represents a bit of a handbrake on the rest of the Veneto, which instead launches the engines to the maximum”. In this scenario, which is dynamic but with major problems, agricultural mechanization has developed while keeping the size of the companies considerably small and focusing, rather, on creativity. The few production plants of heavy machines are actually connected to important groups located elsewhere. “Rovigo offers, of course, significant advantages for a company - explains Bellotto - as the free use of the Interporto warehouses. Just think of what it means to a company like mine, which produces 5.000 tractors per year, to be able to store components without any costs and within easy reach of all means of transport. The problem, if anything, concerns skilled labor. So much so that we have started training activities, just as Federunacoma is already doing in Italy for its members, aimed at the students of the last years of high school. We hope to get at least two-thirds of these young people into the workforce”. On the other hand, focusing on innovation also involves the need for highly qualified workers. Companies such as Mc Elettronica, which for 30 years have been producing electronic instrumentation exclusively for agricultural mechanization, need to be able to count on personnel able to answer to the technological challenges. Claudio Mantovani founded the company in the mid-1980s because he wanted to help his father optimize the work of the family farm exploiting his passion for electronics and technology. Today it has about 40 employees and is specialized in technologies applied to a new sector but in great development: precision farming. “Our customers are agricultural machinery manufacturers - they say in the company - and not just Italians but also foreigners”. Also, in this case, the company keeps in touch with the schools to intercept the most interesting talents and push them to apply. But there are also research projects carried out with the University of Padua and that of Turin, to develop cutting-edge technologies and anticipate market demands.
by Giampiero Moncada