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Pirelli's Mannino goes back to college

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Guy Mannino, president of Pirelli Tire North America Inc., recently participated in a panel discussion on "Views from Italian and U.S. Business Leaders" at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. Here is a transcript of his speech, which focused on Pirelli's investment in Rome, Ga., home of its only tire manufacturing facility in North America.

"In the late '90's, Pirelli decided to invest in the U.S. to supply BMW in Spartanburg, S.C., and Mercedes Benz in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Both car companies rank among Pirelli's best customers.

"The southeast of the United States was then and still is the fastest growing area for the auto industry, and we wanted to be strategically located to potentially supply all of them. Georgia came in as the winner after analyzing the opportunities offered by five states.

"The key decisions factors of our analysis were distribution systems, airports, ports and availability of qualified people, and, of course, incentive packages.

"Georgia has a great highway network that allows moving toward all directions with Highway 75 North-South, Highway 85 toward Northeast-Southwest, and Highway 20 East-West.

"Atlanta Hartsfield International is one of the busiest airports in the world. We can travel to all the major cities in the U.S. and in the world without lengthy layovers.

"The port of Savannah is very convenient. We bring in raw materials for our production facility. We also import tires from other Pirelli factories in the world and export tires made in Rome, Ga., to Europe and Japan.

"Besides elements related to locations, education was a fourth element of extreme importance in the decision process. The state of Georgia has the 'Quickstart Program' that offers a training program for the employees of those companies that relocate to Georgia and those that plan to expand in Georgia. Such a program became very influential in our final decision process.

"Once we decided Georgia was the state of choice, we analyzed several sites and at the end we thought Rome offered the best package. The local authorities were very supportive and today, four years after, they still are. I am convinced that there was also an emotional component in setting a base in Rome, Ga. After all, we are Italians.

"An investment in a tire factory in the U.S. was against all odds considering that China has been the main destination in the past five years. The traditional production technology could not survive the Asian competition; this is the reason why we decided to invest in the most advanced technology available inside our company.

"MIRS is the name of a new proprietary technology that Pirelli developed in the late '90s; it stands for Modular Integrated Robotized System.

"With MIRS, Pirelli has literally revolutionized tire production. The new process is based on a flexible 'production system.' The traditional tire technology is based on mass production; MIRS instead produces the most technological advanced tires in small runs with great flexibility and quality.

"There is no human intervention till the tire reaches the quality inspection area. A team of robots carries out the production cycle in a very compact area with little or no buffers.

"Thanks to MIRS, Pirelli received several awards in Europe and the U.S. for its innovative robotic technology applied to tire production.

"In a MIRS factory, our people are computer specialists and they manage robots through digital displays. Of course, this production system is protected by dozens of patents.

"I am proud to say that this technology has been well received in Detroit. We are proud of having been chosen to supply tires to the successful cars such as the Mustang GT, and the most powerful and fastest pickup truck, the Dodge SRT 10, with a 500-horsepower engine. This year we will start supplying the Mercedes M Class built in Alabama, while we are working with BMW on future models.

"I would like to take this opportunity to mention the positive reaction of the Italian government to the growth of the Italian community in Georgia. We now have a very dynamic Italian Consulate in Atlanta that now helps the Italians living in Georgia. We recently noticed a more active role of the Italian Embassy in Washington in supporting the Italian investments in the U.S. This is a positive move that could bring to further investment decisions.

"Education is a key factor for the economic development of a state and here is another important point that I would like to mention. Georgia continues to raise its standard of education in its school system, and there are great colleges where to find students with great potential. The middle and high school education, instead, needs important intervention to upgrade the skills of potential MIRS technicians."

Mannino was joined on the panel by Ted Turner, CNN founder and philanthropist; David Abney, president of UPS International; and Giancarlo Fantappie, CEO and president of Ansaldobreda Inc.

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