to understand a reality, be it social or productive, we must have clear the area in which it has been developed. The industrial district of Santa Croce sull’Arno and Ponte a Egola, known as Comprensorio del Cuoio e della Calzatura (Leather and Footwear District), covers an area of 330 square kilometres with 98,000 inhabitants. It is the biggest leather district in Italy: in fact, about 30% of the Italian leather production and 98% of the national production of sole leather for shoes is concentrated in this area. The manufacturing model is a rather fragmentary picture of small and medium size enterprises, integrated by some outsourced manufacturing, and micro-businesses specializing in some specific processing steps. The district includes approximately 500 companies with 6,000 employees and aggregate sales of about 1.5 billion Euro. So, a very important economical pool.
Leather and Footwear District: processing and investments
To become a productive centre of excellence it’s necessary to put in place the best available technologies, especially with regard to environmental sustainability. In fact in recent years tanning activities in the Tuscan Leather and Footwear District have managed to minimize their impact on the environment: to obtain this result, tanneries have made huge investments in the construction of centralized purification systems, for which they have become internationally recognized leaders, but also in organizing specifically industrial areas, recycling processing by-products and reusing wastewater treatment sludge.
Not only investments, but also training, research and development. For this purpose Po.Te.Co. (Tanning Technological Centre) was born in 2002, with the aim to support companies operating in the “leather” sector. In particular, Po.Te.Co. carries out analyses of the physical and mechanical properties of the products, as well as analytical activities about primary treatments of waste water. Training is offered through in-service for the workers of the tanning industry and training courses for unemployed people, but also through the activation of some degree courses in collaboration with the University of Pisa.
As to production, the entire Leather and Footwear District focused on the factors that have always characterized its nature: flexibility in manufacturing, quality, a wide product range and capacities to receive inputs from fashion trends. The high technological standards of the companies, culture and tradition of Tuscan master tanners have increased the quality and widened the range of products offered over time. In other words, the Tuscan Leather and Footwear District is renowned all over the world and the most famous fashion houses look to us to continuously update their leather collections.