Many small industries and service based companies could easily move to more rural locations. Disused buildings and farms are abundant ,so opportunities to reconvert those spaces into office space or disused warehouses into small production centres are plenty.
A friend of mine who is a great believer in local and fair trade production, daydreamed about a Sardinian made clothing brand and at first I dismissed him as even I believed he was way too utopian. After thinking it over, I started to reconsider it as a viable option due to the readily available wool produced from a strong sheep herding tradition and also the ideal climate for the growth of cotton plants. Even if it is a bit utopian, I think it fits in perfectly in this series of articles as some are so utopian that they could be considered borderline science fiction. But why should it be impossible to open this business or any other one in Sardinia?
There is a lot of land, many people are unemployed, the island is independent energetically and located in the heart of the Mediterranean, so any sort of production could easily be shipped anywhere. Tunis for Africa, Valencia for the Iberian peninsular, Nice for France and the rest of continental Europe and Izmir or Istanbul for Turkey and the east.
There are some great stories of entrepreneurial genius and resilience that started big businesses on the island. An example of one in a rural setting is SardEx based in Serramanna. It is now a credit circuit with thousands of businesses which trade €31.3 million and is a business centred around promoting businesses and commerce within the island itself. Another example is telecommunications giant Tiscali, based in Cagliari, Sardinia’s capital, the most technologically advanced broadband company in Italy in the late 90s early 2000s. Tiscali was the biggest provider in Italy of internet services and had branches in several other European countries such as UK, Holland and Czech Republic.
The lack of creativity and energy of younger generations of Sardinians is not the problem as, on the contrary, there are a lot of very good ideas on an ‘entrance level’ . The problem is that it is hard to do anything, as new ideas and entrepreneurship is frowned upon by many locals. It is a sort of innate envy towards fellow islanders which prevents cooperation and working together for common goals. The family tradition is strong and trying to change that is not an easy process. The political situation with the main political actors who currently rule the semi-independent regional governments all being descendants or connected to the old barons who controlled the land on a local level for the last 400 years,maintain the status quo. A personal example? The regional minister for tourism, cousin of a former local Sardinian president and connected to a big wine producing family business, has not replied to her work emails concerning these matters, in nearly 3 months.
It is not all doom and gloom, the University of Cagliari has started a course called ‘Contamination lab’ which is a place in which young university students from different study backgrounds get given the opportunity of growing professionally and learning new skills such as how to develop an entrepreneurial idea, pitching it, finding funding (from private investors, foundations and public grants) .
These start ups could choose a location in a remote area if there were good transport connections and the technological basis of having fast broadband. After all buying housing and office space is really cheap, food is of very good quality and of local production and the community atmosphere within the villages is very strong. If you add the beautiful nature surrounding them and the strong traditions and identity which these remote communities preserve it would be a great place to work and grow a family.
If you wish to read more ideas on how to solve the ever increasing phenomena problem of ‘Ghost Villages’ in Sardinia check out the start page.
More information on Contamination Lab (available in Italian and English) can be found on their official website.