The challenges of Orsini and Confindustria

With Edoardo Garrone's step backwards, the doors of Viale dell'Astronomia opened to the Emilian entrepreneur Emanuele Orsini, destined to become the new president of Confindustria: on 4 April the coronation by the General Council and on 23 May the vote of the assembly of the entrepreneurs' organization. In truth, Orsini will not have to go far to place himself in the president's office: since 2017 he has been part of the top management of the national Confindustria and since 2020 he has been vice president with responsibility for taxation, finance and credit.

Who is Orsini

Born in Sassuolo in 1977, he heads Sistem Costruzioni, a holding company that controls around fifteen companies, with a total turnover of around 110 million. A system inherited from his father. As explained on his website, the Sistem Costruzioni team was responsible for reconstruction projects for numerous buildings in the area hit by earthquakes in Abruzzo, Emilia-Romagna and Marche; and had an important role in the creation of infrastructures and pavilions at Expo 2015. Among the main companies controlled by Sistem Costruzioni, there is the Maranello Village, a residential complex dedicated to the world of the Prancing Horse composed of bars, restaurants, gym and various multifunctional areas.

Orsini also presides over Tino Prosciutti, specialized in the processing and production of raw ham, which belongs to his wife and has a turnover of around 70 million. At an association level he was president of Assolegno (2013) and then of Federlegno Arredo (2017).

The challenges to face

A first objective that industrialists will have to set themselves is to count more in Europe. As Orsini himself explained, «Confindustria must be not in Rome and Brussels but first in Brussels and then in Rome» maintaining that «a rapid consultation between all the supply chains is needed to prepare a document to be presented to the other European confindustrias and to the Italian government in view of the formation of the new EU Commission”. There are many issues that have seen Italian companies under attack in Europe: the costs of the energy transition, the packaging revolution, the green home with the impact on construction, the automotive sector with the blocking of sales of internal combustion engine cars from 2035, the rules for a less polluting steel industry. Orsini rightly thinks that the industrial lobbying must now work above all in Europe rather than in Rome, but precisely for this reason his work will be judged severely by the associates, who are increasingly intolerant of the rules imposed by Brussels to reduce the impact on the environment, considered harmful to competitiveness. In short, they will expect results and not words.

But the new president of Confindustria will also have to manage another very hot topic: wages. Many companies are struggling to find staff, the employment rate in Italy is at record levels, almost 62 percent. However, wages do not keep pace with inflation and remain lower than European averages. According to Istat, wages rose by 3.1 percent in 2023, an increase far below inflation, which in 2023 was 5.7 percent. So it is likely that trade associations will find themselves facing increasingly strong demands for wage increases. It is no coincidence that the program of one of the candidates competing for the presidency, Antonio Gozzi, called for a more drastic intervention in the field of bargaining: «Confindustria must promote a rethinking of the entire national bargaining system». All with a greater diffusion of second level bargaining in order to give greater freedom of salary increases to those who can grant them.

Furthermore, like his predecessors, Orsini will have to manage to combine the interests of medium and small entrepreneurs with those of the real “masters” of Confindustria, that is, the large public companies such as Eni, Poste and Leonardo, which according to some rumors have focused precisely on Emilian entrepreneur. Not an easy job.

The political weight

To the last presidencies of Vincenzo Boccia and of Carlo Bonomi many associates blame it for having reduced the political weight of Confindustria, for having caused it to lose its role as a privileged interlocutor with the government. But, one might say, it was the Italian entrepreneurs themselves who wanted it, choosing pale and uncharismatic figures in past years. Confindustria has had as presidents people of the caliber of Guido Carli, Gianni Agnelli, Vittorio Merloni, Luigi Lucchini, Sergio Pininfarina, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, Emma Marcegaglia and the less well-known but industrially solid Antonio d'Amato and Sergio Squinzi. Men and women of power, especially the former, capable of bringing politicians to attention.

But when choosing unknown entrepreneurs like Vincenzo Bocciaowner of a medium-sized printing company in Campania, o Carlo Bonomiwho has never even owned a company in the strict sense but is president of Sidam, a biomedical company from Mirandola with 30 million in revenues, is finding it difficult to be heard in the capital. Men who grew up in Confindustria, little known outside the organisation's corridors.

In this round of competition there were more famous candidates than Orsini: Antonio Gozzi he is the leader ofItalian steelpresident of Federacciai and Duferco's number one. Edoardo Garrone is the king of green energy. Instead, the outsider won, the owner of completely unknown businesses but well integrated into the Viale dell'Astronomia machine. They say that Orsini has a great ability to work as a team, to motivate and listen, to surround himself with smart collaborators.

We will see. Perhaps dreaming of a Confindustria with more political power is out of time, and Orsini will do well what all employers' organizations do in Europe: limit themselves to looking after the interests of their members without deluding themselves into thinking they have a power that has now vanished. Together with the great entrepreneurial dynasties.