Italian contractor Salini Impregilo has been set a challenge by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi over the construction of a bridge across the Strait of Messina, which would join the island of Sicily to mainland Italy.
Plans for the bridge have stalled several times over the years.
The challenge was made at an event called Present & Future of Infrastructure which celebrated the 110th anniversary of Salini Impregilo.
At the inaugural event at the Triennale di Milano museum, Renzi said, “We have to bring Sicily closer by creating 100,000 jobs. If you are in condition to show us that your papers are in order and can unblock what has been halted for 10 years, we’re behind you.”
Pietro Salini, group chief executive, accepted the challenge at the event, which was attended by US Ambassador John Phillips, Lombardy Governor Roberto Maroni and Jeffry Frieden, professor at the Department of Government at Harvard University.
Renzi said, “The negative stories about Italy’s lack of competitiveness are proved wrong by the men and women of business and engineering.”
The Prime Minister then praised Italian companies that had ventured abroad.
“Long live the companies that risk and give it all they’ve got and are not satisfied with simply looking at the past. Recovering the ability to dream is very much tied to engineering and planning. In Italy, planning for the future has been missing for years.
“During the crisis, we lost 927,000 jobs in construction, more than half of that in civil buildings. We have to start again as much with small projects as we do with big ones.”
He added, “That is what I am talking about when I talk of dreams and the horizon. The stories of companies that believed in the future and built this country make us proud – but that is not enough.
“It is nice to look at the past but it is even better to look towards the future.”
Planning for the future
In his reply, Salini spoke of the need to plan for the future and set in motion measures to help the country grow.
“We can no longer wait,” he said. “We are in a country that lives in a globalised world. We cannot always say no – to the Olympics, the country, the future, children – because we will reap tomorrow what we sow today. We cannot rob our children of the future.
“Infrastructure is not beautiful in itself,” he said. “But it serves to fill a need, to help imagine a future for a country. This means that it is necessary to plan for infrastructure. I would like to see this happen in our country – a plan that foresees the generation of the future will do.”
The event also saw the inauguration of the multimedia exhibition called “Beyond – Delivering the Future for the Past 100 Years”, which was opened to the public in the presence of Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala, and will run until 6 November. The exhibition celebrates the role of large, complex infrastructure in the world.
Sala received a new stamp commemorating Salini Impregilo’s anniversary by Poste Italiane, the “110 Years of Future” book published by Rizzoli and a video documentary on the history of the group.
Salini Impregilo is present in 50 countries with 35,000 employees of 100 nationalities. The group is expected to reach €6.1 billion in revenues in 2016 rising to €9 billion in 2019 under a new industrial plan.
In 1906, Vincenzo Lodigiani in Milan and Umberto Girola in Piacenza founded their respective companies, building projects close to home. Thirty years later in 1936, Pietro Salini, grandfather of the current group chief executive, began his own business. In 2013, a merger between the two contracting companies Salini and Impregilo was agreed, and the Salini Impregilo Group was formed.