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Ceramics: the story of a recovery

25 November 2011 [ English ] français ]

In Italy, about 90% of the ceramic industry’s national production is concentrated in the region of Emilia Romagna, particularly in the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Modena. These companies provide 632 million square meters of ceramic tiles annually and export about 70% of production.

In recent years, the sector has suffered from the economic crisis and many enterprises have seen their businesses decrease. Greslab is a cooperative created by its workers, thanks to the former employees of the company Optima, which has been active in the field of ceramics since 1983. After the crisis that started in 2008, the company could not sustain itself and declared bankruptcy. More than forty of its workers rented and then bought the production tool in order to revive the business. They were willing to invest their severance payments and their entire personal savings. The operation was supported, among others, by Coopfond and CFI, two financial instruments of the cooperative movement in Italy.

The cooperative Greslab is the result of a thorough analysis of the difficulties that have undermined the ceramics sector which go beyond the effects of the global economic crisis. A strategic plan that can provide new answers in terms of organization has been developed. It highlights the production specialization, the investment in staff training, the innovation, the development of areas of research and focus on the “Made in Italy” mark of quality. Antonio Caselli, Greslab president, added that the cooperative has a renewed enthusiasm, which I would describe as extremely positive.

For its part, Legacoop, one of the main Italian cooperative confederations, is pleased with this transaction. The birth of this cooperative is our greatest pride, said the President of Legacoop in Reggio Emilia, Simona Caselli. It demonstrates the importance of field work in difficult times in terms of economic and social development. We are particularly pleased that through a cooperative, 40 workers have been able to maintain their jobs and can look ahead without worrying about the future.