Local Lessons for International Development

Eurecna's Web site features motivational speaker Les Brown's words: "Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree long time ago." It's a fitting quote for a company like Eurecna.

Eurecna was first established by the Veneto section of Italy's National Confederation of Crafts and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises to help businesses enter foreign markets.

Veneto Province lies in Italy's northeast; its capital is Venice. The province is internationally renowned for a peculiar model of growth based on an extensive network of small and medium enterprises and a strong agricultural and trading sectors.

After World War II, Veneto was one of Italy's poorest regions and agriculture accounted for 50 percent of its economy. The post-war entrepreneurial boom gave birth to the so-called "Northeast Miracle," which enabled the province to become one of Italy's wealthiest areas. With 46, Veneto has more industrial districts than any other Italian province; each of its districts houses 177 enterprises on average. Veneto is among the leading regions worldwide in the production of footwear, textiles, eyeglasses, light mechanics and food.

In 1995, Eurecna split from the National Confederation of Crafts and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, although the consultancy retained a strong link with the group. In 2000, Eurecna acquired its present name.

Since its inception, Eurecna has committed to fuelling development by supporting entrepreneurial initiatives, bearing in mind the fresh success stories of Veneto's SMEs.

"We don't have a global strategy," said Mario Costariol, the company's chief executive officer. "In each and every country, we look at the opportunities available and react accordingly and with a large extent of flexibility."

In 1991, Eurecna won its first contract with the European Union's Phare program, created in 1989 to help potential member countries reform their economies. Eurecna helped the Romanian government design a SME development strategy.

In the field of economic and social development, Eurecna specializes not only in private-sector development. The company's historical focus on SME-oriented support has generated additional and complementary expertise in industrial restructuring, in labor market policies, as well as in management of regional development and technical assistance programs.

Drawing from its experience in project and financial management, Eurecna tends to work on local economic development programs, Costariol said. Eurecna's connections with Italy's SME community allows it to swiftly connect project beneficiaries with Italian entrepreneurs to share best practices.

Eurecna prefers not to rely on subcontractors and instead to team up with either its branch offices in the west Balkans or with established local partners in strategic countries like Egypt or South Africa.

"There are relatively few international companies that we regularly work with," Costariol said. "In our market it is hard to find strategic partners who are interested in more than one bid or market. Whenever possible, we opt for partners who have specific skills rather than big but little specialized contractors."

In 2000, Eurecna won its first big projects in Africa and the Middle East, two regions that have since become key to the company's work. Meanwhile, the European Union was moving ahead with expansion plans, and with it came new opportunities for Eurecna to expand, as well.

The company established branches on public sector and governance, information and communication technologies, and renewable energies.

Public sector and governance was the first new line of business. In this area, the company provides assistance in improving institutional and regulatory frameworks and offers capacity building to public administrations, again with a special eye to the European integration process.

At present Eurecna's public sector and governance team is working on a 2 million euros (US$3 million) trade-related investment measures project funded by the European Agency for Reconstruction. The purpose is to assist Montenegro meet trade reform commitments with the World Trade Organization and the European Union. Eurecna and its German partner GTZ are involved in strengthening the public sector's capacity in implementing and enforcing policies in the areas of trade, state-aid, competition and consumer affairs. This means assessing existing policies, revising laws, training related personnel, establishing new units and mechanisms within affected government structures, coordinating the communication among all authorities involved and supplying necessary IT equipment.

Eurecna's ICT branch was consolidated in 2007 to strengthen its services on e-business and e-governance. Producing portals, managing web content or consulting on the ICT side of development projects are some of the new services that the Venice-based experts now offer to private and institutional counterparts likewise.

If 2007 saw the company focused on an ICT upgrade, in 2008 the renewable energies unit is being consolidated. First established in 2005, this new team helps build and operate plants in a variety of fields, including hydroelectric and solar power. It has created wind parks in Italy and Romania and through its network of subsidiaries it is managing the production of liquid biomass from oilseeds and is developing energy farming. Appointed by Macedonia's Ministry of Environment, in February 2008 Eurecna has started preparing "clean development mechanism" documents concerning a biomass power generation plant and the enhancement of heating systems and street lightening.

In the countries where the company is active through subsidiaries, it reinvests its profit into initiatives of environmentally sustainable development. Romania is the most promising case at the moment. The Bucharest-headquartered Energia Verde, one of Eurecna's sister-companies, is spearheading projects in biodiesel production and biomass co-generation where the necessary raw materials are generated through rapeseed, wheat, barley and sunflower cultivated in the company's farm in the Danube plain. By the end of 2008, the production of rapeseed and sunflower alone is expected to yield 600 ton per month of this vegetable oil, which is essential for the production of biodiesel.

Born out of a lively SME environment, Eurecna has become an expert of technical assistance. This line of business is still generating two thirds of the company's turnover and Costariol is planning an expansion into new markets, such as Turkey, Asia and Latin America. Nevertheless, the consultancy firm is simultaneously determined to diversify its skills and areas of intervention. ICT and renewable energies are expected to play a bigger role in the company's portfolio and the CEO doesn't hide that "we aim at becoming regional leaders in renewable energies".

Fast factsName: EurecnaFounded: 1988 (under the name Euro-In Consulting)Mission: To share with emerging countries the experience gleaned from the recent growth of Veneto's private sector.Type: Private consulting companyBudget: €14 million (2007) ($22 million)President: Venanzio RosinaNumber of employees: approximately 100Headquarters: Venice; subsidiaries in Slovenia, Serbia, Romania, Montenegro, Bosnia and HerzegovinaEmployment opportunities: http://www.eurecna.it/web/guest/job_opportunities

Additional sources:www.enerverde.euwww.cna.itwww.istat.itwww.limpopoled.com

About the author

  • Cv tachita

    Silvia Sartori

    Silvia Sartori was awarded a bachelor's in international diplomatic sciences from Trieste University, a post-graduate certificate on business in China from the Milan-based Institute of International Political Studies and a master's in Asian studies from Lund University. During a three-year residence in China, she worked in the private sector before joining the European Union Chamber of Commerce. She was also deeply involved with local and foreign nonprofit groups. She has contributed to Italian and foreign media with articles and reports from Asia. Silvia served as a Devex fellow in the first half of 2008. Silvia is fluent in Italian, English French and German and has a working knowledge of Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese.

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