Boeing Frontiers
September 2002 
Volume 01, Issue 05 
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Part of the Italian scene

Boeing is working to boost the business relationships it has with Italy’s government and aerospace businesses


Boeing has worked closely with Italy's aerospace industry, armed forces and leading airlines for decades, finding loyal customers and world-class partners. Most recently, Rome-based carrier Alitalia took delivery of the first of six 777s, while the Italian Air Force is the launch customer for Boeing's 767 Tanker Transport.

And there's room for more growth. That's why this spring, the company appointed an executive to coordinate all the company's business activities in this country.

Rinaldo Petrignani was named Boeing vice president for Italy in March, and since then has been focused on pursuing growth vehicles and developing synergies for Boeing within his native country. The efforts—some of which were under way even before he assumed his new office—are already paying dividends, Boeing leaders say.

Two of Italy's programs took center stage at this summer's Farnborough Air Show, as an agreement in principle among Boeing, the Italian Ministry of Defense, and Alenia Aeronautica to cooperate on the 767 Tanker Transport was announced. The Italian Air Force will receive the first of these new aircraft, which will replace its aging fleet of 707 tankers, in 2005. Also, a missile defense partnership between Boeing and Alenia Spazio demonstrated Italy's importance to the global aerospace industry.

"From the Italian perspective, it was a major step forward," said Petrignani, whose background includes both diplomatic assignments and corporate leadership. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government "is very much in favor" of the transatlantic partnerships.

Petrignani, Italian ambassador to the United States from 1981 to 1991, also has been president of Alenia North America, a unit of the major Italian aerospace company. He realizes that in countries like Italy—where relationships often are key to initiating and completing business deals—his prior contacts will make him most valuable to Boeing. And in today's environment, when Italy must delicately balance its European Union membership with its status as an independent player on the worldwide industrial scene, Petrignani's role is even more critical.

"I will put [my contacts] to work for increased cooperation between Boeing and Italy," he said. "I personally strongly believe in the Italian-American relationship, and almost my entire professional career has been dedicated to this purpose."

In fact, one of Petrignani's first official duties as ambassador to the United States involved attending the introduction of the 767 in Everett, Wash., as Alenia was a partner in the aircraft's development.

Today, Alenia is the second-largest provider of aerostructures in the world to Boeing. And excluding the supply of aeroengines, Italy is the second-largest industrial supplier to Boeing within Europe. Alenia Spazio is heavily involved in the International Space Station, and Alenia Aeronautica signed an agreement to jointly develop structural materials technology for Boeing's Sonic Cruiser.

"Boeing's decision very early to seek to find an excellent representative in Italy is, in part, a recognition of the role Alenia plays in aerospace," said Tom Pickering, Boeing senior vice president of International Relations. "We believe Italy will be both a strong national player in air traffic management and the building of aircraft, but will be a strong European player" as well.

One of Petrignani's roles, says Craig Johnstone, Boeing vice president and regional manager-Europe, International Relations, is "to ensure that what we do has a degree of visibility, and that we get the political credit commensurate with our investment. A lot of what our country executives will do is to translate our major ongoing activities into political and public recognition."

Johnstone said the Boeing-Italy team drew up a "shopping list" of potential partners and projects it wanted to explore. One of these, said Petrignani, includes discussions with ENEA, an independent Italian agency involved with solar energy projects. Another discussion concerns involvement in development initiatives in southern Italy, a region where country leadership wants to create more hightech jobs.

What's important, Johnstone said, is "sitting down with the Italians and talking about what joint activities will advance their goals as well as meet our objectives. That's a strategy we need to have across the board.

"It isn't just a matter of selling off-the-shelf products," said Johnstone, "but finding out what our Italian customers want and need, helping them shape their requirements, and then meeting their needs."

That's why Petrignani said he hopes "that Boeing will be able to establish strong business partnerships in Italy. That would really give Boeing the character of a company deeply rooted in the territory. If we can find a good business case for having an industrial base along with some local Italian company, that would be helpful as a company belonging to the Italian scene."

While the average Italian probably is unaware of the investment Boeing is making in the country, Petrignani and his team want to position the company as a local player. There's talk of promoting research activities in Italy, much as Boeing has done throughout the world. Phantom Works executives recently visited Fiat facilities and the Polytechnic University of Turin to "identify possibilities of launching research projects together," Petrignani said. Projects with the University of Naples are also being considered.

"In Italy, there are pockets of high tech that can be really valuable for Boeing," he said. "We want to leave no stone unturned."

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