Lazio ranks as one of Italy’s fastest growing centres for foreign direct investment. Pharmaceuticals, high technology, computers, clothing, agricultural and food companies are all sectors that figure in the region.

Geographic advantage

Geography is as much an advantage for investors in Lazio as is the quality of its workforce, and the tax breaks and incentives available to companies that locate there. Lazio occupies a strategic location in Italy, bridging the north and south of the country. To the north is Tuscany and to the south is Campania.

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At the heart of the region is Italy’s capital city, Rome. Rome is the main hub of communications. It boasts two airports, Ciampino and Fiumicino. It is at the junction of the cross-country A24 highway and the north-south A1, itself within easy reach of Viterbo, Bolsena and the towns and villages of northern Lazio, where the region sprawls towards Umbria.

Lazio’s extensive Mediterranean coastline and beaches guarantee a buoyant tourism sector. The coastal A12 highway winds northwards from Rome towards Tarquinia.

Infrastructure upgrades

Lazio’s infrastructure has been substantially upgraded in a bid to enable the region to attract foreign investment. The aim is make sure that the industrial facilities are serviced by improving road, rail, sea and air links.

With a view to securing the region’s economic growth, the government has already set aside more than E5.5bn for transport projects. Approximately 80% of those projects have already been approved, and construction has started on more than a third of them.

The massive infrastructure investment is intended to reduce the region’s reliance on roads by enhancing rail, sea and air links. The road network carries about 85% of the 100 million tons of cargo that pass through Lazio. This compares with an EU average of 67% and places constraints on the region’s transport capacity.

Grand projects

The completion of EU ‘grand projects’ is certain to spur growth in Lazio’s expanding logistics sector. These projects include the Berlin–Sicily road and rail corridor, which includes a bridge to connect Sicily with the mainland – the bridge is scheduled for completion in 2011 – and the massive upgrade of European waterways, which includes benefits for Lazio’s main seaport, Civitavecchia.

Figuring among other major projects are the motorway and high-speed rail link from Rome to Naples (reducing rail journeys to under 60 minutes) and Florence (a journey time of approximately 85 minutes), Rome’s two new metro lines, and a motorway between Civitavecchia and the seaport city of Livorno in Tuscany. Work is slated to commence on the motorway link this year. Meanwhile, Rome’s E750m ring road expansion will make the orbital highway three lanes wide. Completion is scheduled for 2006 and will double the highway’s capacity.

The expansion of the main seaport and the recent opening of the Cargo City at Fiumicino, Rome’s main international airport, will give a big boost to Lazio’s main logistics hub. The hub serves as an intermediary link between the airport and road, rail, sea and air connections. The central Mediterranean port of Civitavecchia is already one of Italy’s main seaports, but large-scale investment in an interport area will serve to open it up to a 10-fold increase in container traffic.

The government has already spent approximately E300m on upgrades to the port’s facilities. These enhanced facilities include a 50-hectare goods-handling area. There are plans to invest a further E100m to complete the expansion. In the past five years alone, container shipments have increased from about three million tons per year to nine million tons as a result of the explosion in trade between the Mediterranean region and China.

The opening of the E140m Cargo City in August 2004 trebled the airport’s handling capacity to 300,000 tons of cargo per year, making the latest freight handling technology available to logistics companies.

Italy has proved an increasingly attractive destination for FDI in recent years, and Lazio has been a critical factor in that appeal. The region’s performance looks set to grow.