Short- and long-term objectives. Synergies and forecasts for the future. Ezio Castellani, president of Assoconciatori and historical Tuscan tanning entrepreneur, tells us in this interview the goals he has set for himself in the role he has taken on a few months ago. “I accepted this role solely in the interest of the tanneries in the district,” he explains. “It is a role that deserves time and attention: I have decided to dedicate it to them. The growth of the Leather District, the promotion of the excellence it represents, and the training of new generations are the priorities on which to work”, as Castellani recalls, “in a shared way”.
Present and future of Assoconciatori
Are the tanners’ associations on the two banks of the Arno close to merging?
We are holding meetings to discuss this very possibility. Two preliminary meetings have already been held. We have a lot of common factors to work on, such as the environment and water purification. We still don’t know the timeframe for this project, but this is the direction taken by both parties.
Is there any news concerning the Santa Croce water purification plant?
The new president of the purification consortium, Maurizio Signorini, has just been appointed. We are organising a report on the Programme Agreement requested by Tuscany Region and the Ministry of the Environment. According to our understanding, this agreement will go ahead in every way.
Does the purification plant need up-grading?
Within about ten days, we will have completed the closure of a project to design the final phase of the Santa Croce sull’Arno purification plant. The plant is working normally, as it always has. The purification plant, with its excellent discharge characteristics, is one of the few plants in terms of quantity at a European level. If we are here, it is thanks to those who came before us, and to the political and social insight we had in the 1970s.
What are Assoconciatori’s main objectives?
Assoconciatori’s aim is very simple. Our interest is to think of the territory and of all the families who work in our district. We would like this thought to be shared. There are 95,000 people who depend on the leather sector in this district. I’m not just talking about the tanners, but the whole fabric of activity that revolves around it.
What are the next projects?
There are some things in the pipeline for the future. There are a number of agreements underway with public bodies, for example with Po.Te.Co (the Santa Croce Tanning Technology Centre, ed.), which should undertake a restructuring and expansion of the structure. We must not lose sight of the training of young people entering our sector. It must continue to be a priority for our association.
What kind of training to focus on?
We will have to start thinking about training designed, as is already happening in Europe, to qualify those who already work in our companies and ensure that, by improving their position, they remain there throughout their professional career. We cannot make training courses only for the unemployed or for those who have lost their jobs and we have to think about training that allows people to reposition themselves in the same company. Po.Te.Co, in this sense, has an important task for the future.
The economic situation
What is the economic situation for companies in the district?
In 2022, we saw a slight recovery that was slowly bringing us out of the pandemic crisis. Now, the latest events of the war in Ukraine have intervened, and we cannot assess with any certainty what the future will hold. There could have been good prospects but, at the moment, they are being questioned.
Will Tuscan tanneries be affected by this war?
There will probably be problems with raw materials. Ukraine is an important supplier country for the tanneries of Comprensorio del Cuoio, especially of wet blue. We cannot yet assess the reactions that will occur as a result of this conflict.
What do you want to do for the revaluation of the territory?
We want to activate and promote a widespread communication project. A project that must reaffirm the social, cultural and economic importance of our sector and our work.