Italy’s Campania Region’s high concentration of art and architecture in such a small territory makes it unique in the world. Its stunning Amalfi and Sorrento coastlines, Gulf of Naples islands, and protected historic sites have made is renowned with beauty the world over. However, according to its Governor Vincenzo De Luca, its progress in attracting business and investment through providing incentives and slashing red tape is producing modern-day centers of excellence. Home to both the historic and immense Royal Palace of Caserta and also the latest architectural masterpiece by the late Zaha Hadid, the recently inaugurated Salerno Maritime Terminal, Campania is becoming a symbol of Italy’s treasured past and reforms for a dynamic future. Mr De Luca has the details.
After the seven-year-long crisis, Italy started to grow again last year. In your opinion, is there a transition from austerity to a policy promoting investment?
I think there is a substantial change. On the one hand, the burden of our public debt has not allowed our government to adopt expansionist policies right when the economic crisis hit; on the other hand, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is also aware that too severe austerity policies have hampered the country’s economic recovery.
We are willing to reduce our public debt but this won’t happen if we don’t give way to a full recovery and development of our economy. Unfortunately, this is not a shared idea within part of the EU, Germany in particular. However, this is not halting Matteo Renzi and his government from facing those issues that he considers as crucial for our recovery.
At the top of the list is the labor market: relationships between companies and trade unions were based on the outdated mentality that didn’t take into account the demand for work flexibility driven by the globalization and technical innovation processes. Secondly, the public administration also needed to be reformed: simplifying bureaucratic procedures, getting rid of free-riding and uncontrolled privileges that we have given to ourselves.
Italy is a country whose history is one of the oldest in the world, home to the richest collection of artistic and natural treasures. We are quite proud of our incredible heritage and we of course protect it. However, on the other side, the excessive level of protection has brought the country to a near mummification and decisional paralysis. In fact, one challenging issue we have to deal with is the urban transformation along with the unparalleled heavy bureaucracy and the suffocating network of controls.
Finally, there is the reform of the institutions that will be put to the people’s vote during the constitutional referendum next fall. There is a great modernization process going on in Italy right now that is bringing positive results. Even more extraordinary is the fact that reforms are happening in a frame of economic balance. I believe that by the end of this process Italy will be a locomotive for development in the Western part of the world.
What are the sectors with the highest growth potential in Campania that can attract foreign direct investment?
Campania is part of this modernization process. We have approved a law that cuts all the unnecessary bureaucratic procedures. We have decreed that the regional authority cannot take longer than three months to deliberate on decisions it is called upon to make. We have set up a one-stop shop for companies in charge of collecting the required authorizations in order to facilitate investments.
With regards to the production sectors, Campania is home to some of the world’s excellences. The aerospace industry, for example, is a production and a research sector that is now specializing in micro-satellite technology. We already produce components that are used also by NASA. Additionally, the military and defense sector is also an excellence with Finmeccanica being one of the world’s leaders in the production of missile systems and helicopters, among others things. As for the automotive sector, Chrysler has a production plant right here in Campania that includes an experimentation and test center where also American products are tested.
The third business where our excellence is unparalleled is the agrifood industry thanks to the extraordinary quality of our products, the protection of which we are engaging a battle against food counterfeiting. In this respect, there are food products in USA that are sold as being original Italian products. The quality of Italian enogastronomy – and Campania’s in particular – is unparalleled beyond any doubt and we are working to increase our share in the medium-high segment of the market. We may not compete with the prices of the North African, Turkish or even Chinese markets, but the quality and the natural characteristics of our products are incomparable. We are the land of food excellence and our prices may be higher but we guarantee the quality and the safety of our food, free from any damaging chemical additives.
In this respect, the TTIP is one of the hot topics that are currently being debated, with a special focus concerning the protection of typical Italian products against the so-called “Italian sounding” ones. What is your point of view on Campania region’s contribution to the Made in Italy brand? What is the position of the American market for the export of Campania’s products?
A few years ago we launched an interesting initiative with the Italian-American Chamber of Commerce and invited directors of some of the main commercial chains of the East Coast and Canada in order to sell our products to American and Canadian restaurants. We sealed important agreements for our productions under two basic conditions: first-choice quality of the products and extreme punctuality in the delivery.
We were able to grant our integrity and earnestness for this business partnership, in order to defend our market credibility. The Region of Campania contributes to the Made in Italy also with its cultural heritage and its fashion industry. There are unique treasures within our territory: Pompeii, Paestum, the Royal Palace of Caserta – which many people agree to be even more beautiful than Versailles – and is where the G7 summit was held.
As for the Italian style and fashion, I cannot say much. Many Hollywood stars are the best testimonials of our unique quality – ask George Clooney about that! The red jacket used in the Oscar-winning movie The Great Beauty was tailored in Campania because our region has the greatest tailoring tradition.
The tourism industry is another important driving force for investments. Our artistic and cultural heritage is outstanding. Just to name two of the most popular destinations of American tourists in Italy, consider Ravello, the Amalfi Coast.
You said during your inauguration speech: “Our region must become the most important touristic district of Italy, Europe and the world. We can make this happen”. What are the activities that your region is encouraging in order to attract tourists and investors from all over the world?
There are two aspects that depend on our administration that we must improve and are essential to achieving this target: the transportation system to facilitate mobility and a unified marketing campaign that must match the greatness of our cultural heritage. Why do I talk about being the world’s leading tourism district? You have to think that our territory stretches from Rome to Salerno and if you just consider the territory between Rome and Naples, you’ll have the world’s greatest concentration of artistic and cultural heritage. If you add high-speed railways we may even include Florence in the equation.
Such a concentration of arts and architecture in such a small territory is unique in the world. Therefore my idea is to develop one huge touristic district that would also include cruise tourism, thanks to the ports in Naples and Civitavecchia. With all due respect to our French cousins, Rome is the world’s capital city, the birthplace of law, the main representation of the State, and home to Christianity with the Vatican.
And then of course there’s Naples. In the 18th century Naples was the largest European metropolis; just like London, its artistic and historic heritage is unique in the world scenario. You can walk around Naples for weeks and still you won’t see all of it. There is a whole city that develops even below the street level, without even mentioning the islands of Capri and Ischia and again Sorrento and Amalfi. Where else in the world do you find such a concentration of beauty and diversity of offer?
So you understand my strong desire to create this top-level and incomparable touristic district. There is one typical product in Campania against which no other product can compete in the world: the buffalo mozzarella. In addition to this, we are also encouraging religious tourists flows. Basically, here you will find absolutely everything and at the highest levels. We are working on and introducing some unprecedented changes to improve in the areas of organization of our services and infrastructure.
Speaking of infrastructure development, Salerno hosts a landmark in terms of contemporary architecture with the Salerno Maritime Terminal. What does this terminal mean for the tourism and trade industries?
First of all, the inauguration was with great emotion. We were expecting to host Zaha Hadid for the opening day but she has sadly passed away recently so it was the occasion to commemorate her properly. In the afternoon there was a special event in her honor during which our architect Stefano Boeri gave a lecture. Other than its economic value, the Salerno Maritime Terminal is a symbol, a balancing point between Italy’s great heritage and the country’s need for modernization.
We need to enrich Italy’s architectural heritage with contemporary projects and the Salerno Terminal is the symbol of this change. The Maritime Terminal falls into a project of urban requalification designed by Zaha Hadid, Ricardo Bofill and Oriol Bohigas – the latter is a representative of the Catalan school of architecture, and he designed the Olympic City in Barcelona. The terminal has the shape of a shell and, as an enthusiast of modern architecture, I think it is the most beautiful project designed by Zaha Hadid.