What would you say if a multinational company offered you a 60-million-euro investment when your country was on the brink of financial disaster? Pisa, despite being in Tuscany and being quite famous, is rather the forgotten corner of the region. It boasts an international airport (often inappropriately called ?Florence airport’), and a very old leaning tower. It’s a city you pass through (to the see the tower) on the way to somewhere else, to land or change trains.
Six years ago the Swedish superstore Ikea offered a (possibly) golden opportunity to the area in the form of a huge 60-million-euro megastore to be constructed in the town of Vecchiano, near Pisa, that would bring new jobs, new roads, new visitors and new life to the somewhat depressed area.
Italy’s economy in general is suffering more than an upset tummy. The hike in borrowing costs for the world’s seventh largest economy and the sheer size of the debt load makes Italy’s ability to pay off its debt increasingly difficult: massive economic growth remains the only feasible option. Italy cannot afford to play hard-to-get it right now. Italy needs to learn to flirt. And it has to learn to deliver, and fast.
Obstacles that literally stifle the growth of even small- and medium-sized companies, which are the backbone of Italy’s ailing economy, are well documented. Those same obstacles become financial suicide when applied to huge multinationals that have the ability to make a meaningful difference to the local economy in a matter of months.
But even Ikea suffered at the hands of Italy’s infamous red tape. For five long years, its managers filled out forms in triplicate and queued, filled out more forms and queued some more. In the sixth year, Ikea said enough was enough. Ikea had a business plan, and it did not include five years of form-filling and queuing to satisfy Italian bureaucracy. Then and only then did assistance arrive, in the form of Enrico Rossi, president of the Tuscan Region. Rossi arrived on the very day that Ikea said ?enough’ (or more likely tillr?ckligt), and not a minute before.
He was too late. Another site was willing to respond more quickly. Now Ikea is apparently on track to open at Navicelli in 2013.
The experience of Ikea is just one, very small example of a much larger problem. A single Ikea store in Pisa is not going to solve Italy’s huge economic problems. However, Italy’s current climate is suffocating businesses of all sizes and massive business growth is quite possibly the country’s only way out of its own, very much Made-in-Italy mess.