The industrial sector in South Tyrol

In the sector of industry the Autonomous Province of Bozen (Bolzano)-South Tyrol has only secondary powers and can therefore only legislate within the framework of existing state laws. In view of the fact that the future of local industry particularly because of economic and political developments at European level essentially depends on one hand on the technological standard of the firm and on the other on the corresponding level of training of the work force the Province has already been trying for a long time with some success to become active in these two areas through specific support measures.

The industrial sector in South Tyrol is basically divided into two big blocks the difference between them depending on the size of the firm. On the one hand there is heavy industry with about a dozen firms which are particularly to be found in the large population centres of the Province and on the other hand there is a profusion of small firms spread evenly throughout the whole of the province and involved in a variety of different activities the most numerous being those in construction timber and mechanical engineering.

It is not always easy to differentiate between craft and industrial firms. As a professional organization for employers in South Tyrol there is only the Industriellenverband (Industrialists Association) which a good proportion of employers have joined.

All in all in South Tyrol at the end of 1994 there were 1 613 industrial firms of which 378 had more than ten workers or employees. The number of those working in the sector amounted to about 28 700 persons corresponding to 14 per cent of all those in work. Of these 25 500 worked in firms with more than ten employees. The average for an industrial firm was 17 employees but if one took into consideration only those firms with more than ten employees the average would rise to 67.

It is interesting to note in this connection that 9 per cent of employees work in 70 per cent of the industrial firms. With regard to employees besides those in construction the motor car and machinery metal processing and food and semi-luxury consumption branches are the most important areas of activity for South Tyrolese industry.

The industrial sector of the economy provides about 18 per cent of the net product of the Province. In 1993 South Tyrolese industry reached a gross product of 78 million lire per worker. Almost half of goods produced were marketed abroad with the export intensity of the firm increasing according to its size. Three quarters of South Tyrolese goods exported come from industry.

The reason for the above-mentioned division in the structure of South Tyrol's industrial production is partly historical. Some of the larger firms particularly in the Bozen (Bolzano) Industrial Zone were set up in the first decades of the century purely for political reasons i.e. the Italianization of the Province; other large firms are branches of multinational companies (Birfield Hoppe Memc- Electronic Electrisola) which have settled in the Province following the investment boom of the 1960s and 1970s. In addition there are a few local enterprises which have gradually developed into large firms (Forst Zuegg Leitner Durst Seeber Finstral Gasser Speck Senfter).

Since the early 1970s the Provincial administration has been particularly concerned about promoting an even economic development through having industry set up all over the Province and thereby also to deal with the problem of commuting. Through the establishment of nine development centres - production zones of provincial interest in Neumarkt (Egna) Bozen (Bolzano) Lana (Lana) Schlanders (Silandro) Prad (Prato allo Stelvio) Lajen (Laion) Brixen (Bressanone) Sterzing (Vipiteno) Bruneck (Brunico) - the movement of industrial firms into the side valleys was also encouraged. In addition the municipalities have been trying to set up firms and today almost every municipality has its own production zone in which small industrial firms are accommodated. This kind of distribution can be considered an important factor for the stability of the industrial sector.

Next to this generally positive picture of the South Tyrolese industrial scene at present there are nevertheless certain shortcomings which can adversely affect future development. A weak point for South Tyrolese industry can be considered the lack of an industrial culture which has the effect of putting a brake on the development of the industrial firm. A further problem is that many products have reached the limit of their potential and as a result have limited possibilities for further development. The construction sector with its many small firms with at times only a few employees is an unbalancing factor. Technological standards are also to some extent too low and investment in research and development relatively so. Only a few industrial firms systematically carry on research and development.

There exists a shortage of medium-sized firms (i.e. those with 70 to 150 employees) with modern technical equipment just as on the labour market there is in certain respects a lack of skilled workers. In order to counter these developments the Province makes available investment funds. At present support for industry is undergoing a big change in that on the one hand the effectiveness of direct investment assistance must be replaced by indirect measures and on the other hand adjustment to EC regulations must take place. A second vital area of help by the Province relates to the training of skilled workers upon which further development essentially depends.

A training centre for young people with a secondary school education has therefore been set up where they can acquire expertise with the most modern technology. In the same way the Provincial administration has decided to set up an Innovation and Economic Park (BIC). In 1992 new provincial support directives for industry were issued. The provincial administration has also promoted the establishment of a local research centre. Great attention will be paid as to whether the expected developments in Europe will lead to export expansion and the opening up of new markets.

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