Territorial export at the time of the Great Recession

Which territories recovered their export levels most quickly after the 2008 crisis? And which ones are still in trouble?


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The Italian economy was one of the worst hit by the Great Recession, started with the failure of Lehman Brothers on 16 September 2008. In terms of activity levels, ten years later the economy has not yet recovered to pre-crisis level. The main cause was the collapse of the components of domestic demand: the level of investment in construction in 2018 is still 30% lower than in 2008; investment in machinery and equipment is 5% lower. Only the consumption of households recovered the levels of 2008. In this weak situation of domestic demand, the main engine for the development of the industry was exports. Over the last 10 years, these have increased by more than 25%, supporting the growth of business turnover. Not only in the past, sales on foreign markets will also be the main driver of growth in the future. All the main offices of studies of analysis of the Italian economy agree, in fact, in considering that also in the next few years the perspectives of increase of the Italian economy are tied to the exports of goods, regarding the industry and to tourism, as far as services are concerned.

Export support for the growth of activity levels was not homogeneous at territorial level. In these ten years, some territories have been able to exploit the foreign markets in order to completely get out of the crisis; others have instead obtained marginal benefits from the exports; still others, finally, have not been able to fully compensate for the fall in domestic demand by increased sales abroad.

The southern regions are at the extremes of the results obtained on foreign markets

Among the regions that achieved the greatest results, the performance of the Basilicata stands out, which has more than doubled the 2008 results . For this region it has benefited from the production facilities of the FCA. In fact, one of the most productive factories of the Italian multinational is located in Melfi (PZ), where they have been producing the Fiat 500X and the Jeep Renegade since 2014, among other components or models. The two specimens are very popular abroad, especially in the United States, which is precisely the largest export market for this region.
If Basilicata is almost an "anomaly", not less important is the growth of Lazio : this region has increased its exports abroad by 4.5% on average every year , ranking second as the best export growth. The most representative sector for Lazio exports is pharmaceuticals, especially with the provinces of Frosinone and Latina, where highly specialized pharmaceutical centers are located.

The regions far below the average are located mainly in the south. Molise and Sardinia are the only two regions still lagging behind 2008. For these two regions, the Great Recession brought to light the serious difficulties that already existed, further penalising the already weak companies that had appeared on its foreign markets.

The results by province are very dispersed

Among the Italian provinces, seven of that have more than doubled the numbers of 2008. Asti recorded a +164.8% compared to 2008, thanks mainly to exports of wines of Langhe. It has already been discussed about Frosinone (+151.7%) and Potenza (+126.1%).
The growth of exports in the province of Lodi (+ 115.4%) was particularly significant. The Lodi companies are mainly dedicated to the metalworking sector, dividing mostly between the telecommunications electronics sector and the production of computers and peripheral units. An important role was played by the Lodi Export consortium, which was able to support the operations of the companies also with a training and managerial growth of the territory, in collaboration with the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan.
An equally important result is also that of Piacenza , which compared to 2008 has scored a + 112% . In this case, the leading sectors are metalworking and clothing. Certainly the exports of the province of Piacenza have benefited from the growing role of the province as a great Italian logistics hub, to which many Italian companies also rely for exchanges abroad.
The surprise is the result of the province of Catanzaro , whose exports increased by + 145.6% , supported by the foreign sales of the Agribusiness sector. This is also accompanied by the growth of the metalworking sector, which rose from 17 million euro declared in 2008 to around 50 million in 2018. However, it should be noted that this positive trend is placed at very low levels, preventing the province from exceeding the threshold 100 in the ranking of Italian provinces by value of exports. Similar discourse applies to the province of Grosseto , which has grown by 144% . In fact, although above all the agricultural companies have obtained excellent results in absolute terms, the province is only in the 89th place in the provincial export ranking.

On the other hand, some provinces of the south even scored negative variations compared to 2008. Among these, L'Aquila, hit by the terrible earthquake of 2009, Isernia (-80.9%), Sassari, Vibo Valentia, Caserta. Also two provinces of Central Italy (Terni and Pistoia) recorded export values ​​even lower in 2018 than in 2008.

Finally, other provinces do not have negative rates of change, but achieve results that are decidedly lower than the average. For example, Pordenone and Ancona (respectively, +2.54 and +2.47 ) discount the crisis linked to production of household appliances: Pordenone is at a loss on this specific sector by 10.4%, while Ancona by 42%.

Taranto scored a negative change of 43.4% , linked almost exclusively to the problems of ILVA: the exported value of steel, as far as exports are concerned, has gone from over 1.1 billion euros in 2008 to just over 350 million in 2018, with an overall loss of almost 70%.