Italian industry is well known for its small and medium sized companies, many of which are family owned and operated. Like everywhere else in today’s bleak economic conditions, job creation is a key issue with the unemployment rate, especially for younger people, on the uptick. While Italian entrepreneurs are creative and innovative, a recent episode illustrates what inspired thinking can do to create jobs.
Angelo Corigliano, the 61-year old president of ITEX Srl, a company located in San Donato Milanese in Lombardy, decided to do what he could do “to make a small contribution to stimulate the Italian economy”.
Born in the southern Italian region of Puglia, one of Italy’s poorest, Mr Corigliano immigrated to the Milan area in search of his dream. In 1994 he started ITEX, which provides services related to testing, product certification, quality control inspection, expediting and other consulting services. Today, ITEX has a paid-in capital of 3 million euros and about 500 employees worldwide, including a presence in Tokyo and Houston.
Nor did he forget his origins. When it came time to expand operations, a branch was established in Taranto in Puglia, creating badly needed local employment.
For Mr Corigliano, job creation was such a passion that he works on from beyond the grave. Afflicted with terminal cancer and with his time running out, on October 4 he took out a full page ad in Italy’s leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera, pledging that his firm would create 50 full-time jobs within a year.
In a farewell message entitled “A promise and a message to entrepreneurs”, he reflected on his “wonderful family to whom I owe everything”. Then he paid homage to his “wonderful co-workers who all contributed to the success” of his firm even though it was suffering as a result of the recession.
He went on to say that his company should move forward without him, adapt to circumstances and take advantage of opportunities with its capable and dedicated staff. “More than fifty jobs in less than a year means infinite satisfaction,” he wrote. “The crisis is taking its toll but now for me everything has changed”.
He expressed all this in a simple equation: 50 -1 = ∞.
“The vision that I have for my firm is infinite, it should not cease operations because of me, but I do wish it to change over time, to adapt to difficult circumstances, seize opportunities with whatever capable human resources that may be necessary. Infinite will also be my satisfaction to have made a small contribution to the recovery of our country.”
Mr Corigliano died on October 8 — with 10 of the promised positions already filled.
His heirs plan to fulfill his promise. Indeed, on the day of the funeral his nephew Salvatore Stomeo, who will take over the direction of the firm, pledged to fill the remaining jobs.
A personal appeal for job creation would probably be considered newsworthy in any country but Mr Corigliano’s noble gesture followed almost immediately by his death made it a major story in Italian newspapers.
What is to be learned from the story of Angelo Corigliano? His was much more than a rags-to-riches story. With his profound sense of social responsibility, he was convinced that entrepreneurs should do more. They should help their fellow men by creating work which enhances their dignity and their ability to support their families and to contribute to the nation, especially in a time of crisis. Italian capitalism always has tried to do more than merely maximize profit, tinged as it is with Catholic social doctrine that emphasizes personal and corporate social responsibility.
Yes, profits are essential for a firm to prosper but corporate ethical behavior always has a personal side and the ITEX company profile developed by Mr Corigliano illustrates this well.
Persons in a position of responsibility with a sound moral foundation will take sound moral decisions. Impending death may sharpen one’s focus, but Mr Corigliano was clearly leading by conviction and personal example.
To encourage other entrepreneurs to engage in a dialog on the job creation and other aspects of his challenge, he gave his name, email address and phone number at the end of the ad. It will never be known how many responses he received before his death.
Mr Corigliano’s newspaper advertisement was his testament. His legacy lies in his faith in his family, his firm and the future.
Vincenzina Santoro is an international economist. She represents the American Family Association of New York at the United Nations.