The Tuscan garment, footwear and leather businesses are among Italy’s top districts. The most recent report released by the Osservatorio dei distretti Italian [Italian Districts Monitoring Unit] includes a ranking scale of the production networks and businesses based on their performance, that is to say, accounting for the number of businesses included in the sector, number of employees, amount of exports, turnover and added value. Among the 20 top districts that distinguished themselves in terms of performance, we find six Tuscan districts, of which three are in the top five.

The spotlights are specifically centered on the leather, hide, and footwear industry in the provinces of Florence and Arezzo, the textile-garment in Empoli, and the Santa Croce Sull’Arno district, specializing in garments and accessories. The first, also known as Valdarno Superiore, can count on a basin of more than 5,000 businesses (mostly small ones, given that only three exceed 500 employees) that comprehensively employ 34,000 people. Considering only the approximately 600 limited liability companies, the total turnover reached nearly 3.6 billion Euros, according to 2012 budgets. During the past two years, the turnover of businesses in this district grew by 26%.

The textile and garment district developed in Empoli’s province pivots on the activity of 4300 companies that employ 23,000 people. The total profits effected in this area by limited liability companies (LLC) increased by approximately 20% in the two-year period between 2010-12 and nearly reach 2.5 billion Euros, while the added value – understood as the difference between the value of production (output) and the immediate costs for goods and intermediate services (input) – was calculated as 1.2 billion. In terms of dimensions, the Santa Croce sull’Arno is the most important industrial district, focusing on the fashion industry and extending over the provinces of Florence, Siena and Pisa. With nearly 6,000 active businesses and 37,000 employees, this district generated an overall turnover of 5.2 billion Euros in 2012, if we are only including the 1,000 LLC’s. In this case as well, the growth rates for the last two-year period exceed 25%.

But not only fashion. Among the industrial districts included in the Osservatorio’s top 20 we also find the stone industry centered in Lucca and in the Massa Carrara province. This specialization is cultivated by 600 businesses in the area that employ more than 3,000 workers for a turnover of 720 million and a growth of 15% between 2010 and 2012.

Even after accentuating their overseas vocation, compensating the difficulties on the domestic front with exports and new markets, Italian districts in general were not immune to the long crisis that hit the economy of Italy and the globe. However, judging from the Osservatorio’s research, they will persevere in fostering into the future their characteristic traits that were identified as strong points. Firstly, the quality [of their products] conceived as the efficiency of processes and the control over production phases to conserve the “Made in Italy” signature. Secondly, the preeminence of family based companies, a model that has proved quite efficacious for some types of productions. And thirdly, the attention [paid to] the territory, also in terms of its consequences for employment and stakeholder satisfaction. 

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