MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Carcano Trasporti

From the horse drawn carriage to the truck

Luigi Carcano, son of Angelo and Teresa Ponti, was born in Varese in 1870. His wife, Erminia Bellerio, bore him many children, seven boys and five girls. The family lived at Casbeno, one of the city of Varese's vegetable farms, where Luigi owned a plot of land that he cultivated together with his children. The Carcano family's entrepreneurial history in the transport sector began with the purchase of a horse drawn carriage and the family's willingness to provide transport services for its neighbours. During the 1920s the activity became more like a business. The family purchased its first motorized carriages and even began working for the city of Varese's postal service, continuing to do so up until 1938. The business was first formally registered at the Varese Chamber of Commerce in 1933, with the establishment of the company "Carcano Luigi e figli", headquartered at the family home at no. 22 Via Corridoni. In 1935 Luigi was joined by his sons Giuseppe, Cesare and Enrico, followed by their younger brother Mario in 1946, while his two other sons continued with the farm work. Just as the nineteenth century was the century of the railway, the twentieth century was that of road and air transport and, in the zone between Milan and Varese, the cradle of Italian aeronautics, the world's first toll motorway was inaugurated in 1924. Large investments were also made in the secondary road network, and the familiar image of horse drawn carriages stuck in the mud gave way to that of trucks hurtling down a compact macadam road. The work of the Carcano family was thriving and evolving, and the three innovative brothers, whose father had remained bound to tradition and the family's farming activities, expanded the business during the 1930s and 1940s, leading them to move the company to Via Monte Santo, along the Northern Railway's route of entry into the city, even before the outbreak of World War II. One of the first changes involved the activity of relocating local homes and businesses.

The company experienced serious difficulties during the war: it didn't work directly for the war industry, was subjected to numerous requisitions by the occupying authorities and, as if that were not enough, was even heavily damaged by bombing. During the last years of his life, Luigi mainly dedicated himself to supervising the farm work, and the sole proprietorship company that bore his name closed upon his death on March 2nd 1946. The inheritance left by Luigi gave the family the opportunity to settle various solidarity and business issues: ownership of the Casbeno farm was given to Maurilio and Rinaldo, the two children who had always worked the land, while the transport company was inherited by the four sons mentioned above.


The transport industry (from macadam to asphalt)

On March 3rd 1946, the brothers Giuseppe, Cesare, Enrico and Mario Carcano established the company "Luigi Carcano di F.lli Carcano". The company's headquarters had already been moved to no. 54 Via Sanvito Silvestro a few months earlier, where it employed 17 workers. The eldest, Giuseppe, was named as the company's president, but of the four brothers Cesare was the one who ended up being recognized as the company's strategic leader. The Carcano company continued to expand with the industrialization of the area: many industrial facilities in the Varese area used their services to transport various types of goods, ranging from aircraft components to cases of beer. It was precisely the company's relationship with the Poretti Brewery, which required more complex services than transport alone, that led to a diversification that would have a profound impact on the future. In 1959, the Induno Olona brewery asked its suppliers to join forces in order to provide an integrated logistics system, with its own warehouses and distribution network.

Cesare Carcano thus co-founded the company Olona trasporti sas in partnership with the Isella family and, for a short time, the Ghielmi family as well. As of that time, the strategy of establishing strong alliances between the industry's operators, even if not expressly requested by a common client, became a hallmark of the family's modus operandi. The underlying philosophy was that of a capitalistic system based on mutual trust and a sense of community. In the 1950s, the Italian National Railway granted the Carcano brothers the license to transport railway wagons throughout the territory of ??Varese, Albizzate, Sesto Calende and Laveno. Although this complex task required much skill and many investments, it was extremely useful in such a highly-industrialized region, which is also rather mountainous, however, and was not very well suited to creating a network of tracks and railyards for handling merchandise. The fleet of vehicles underwent a significant expansion, keeping pace with the industry's continuous innovations, and important investments were made for the handling of oversize loads. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the Carcano family established various new business, each of which was more or less linked to the transport industry. In addition to the aforementioned Olona trasporti, in 1961 the four Carcano brothers founded Fracar spa, which would serve as a parent company for managing the family's industrial investments and real estate. Fabbrica colloidi ausiliari, on the other hand, which was established in 1957, was involved in an entirely different sector. The company arose from a meeting between Enrico Carcano, one of Cesare's sons, and the chemist Mansueto Foglio Para, and was involved in the production of additives for the paper industry up until recent years. Enrico was replaced a few years later by his older brother Carlo, who constituted the only branch of the Carcano family that would remain involved in the local paper industry. Cesare Carcano passed away at the end of 1963, and his sons Carlo, Enrico and Luigi Giovanni succeeded him as partners. Luigi's youngest son, Mario, took over the leadership of the company and, during the second half of the 1960s, began handing over the reigns to the third generation. In addition to Cesare's heirs, Giuseppe's sons, Luigi and Antonio, also became fully involved in the company, while Enrico's branch was liquidated in 1970.


From transport to logistics

From the 1970s, the group of companies owned by the Carcano family was led by young Luigi Giovanni, while his uncle Giuseppe served as president of the parent company Fracar spa up until 1978, when he was succeeded by his brother, Mario. Despite his young age, the youngest of the Carcano cousins was able to rise to the challenge, and the company enjoyed a long period of stability under his leadership. During this period, the Carcano group grew thanks to an expansion strategy aimed at satisfying the market's diversified needs. The transport industry was being segmented into different sectors requiring specific skills and resources. At the same time, in addition to the simple transport of merchandise on behalf of third parties, the ancillary services of storage and distribution also arose, leading the company into the new field of integrated logistics. The company So.Ge.Ma. spa was established in 1973 for the management of warehouses and storage depots, and within a few years became one of the Carcano group's most dynamic companies. The company's association with the Isella family, through the company Olona trasporti, continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, it was through this company that the group eventually purchased Fosina autotrasporti sas, a historical company of the Varese area dealing in cargo. In 1978 the group underwent a reorganization in terms of both administration and operations. The parent company, Fracar spa, was merged with two other smaller companies, and its name was changed to "Carcano trasporti spa". The two main companies, Carcano trasporti and So.Ge.Ma, were based out of a new larger headquarters at no. 9 Via Buccari, across the street from Valganna.

The group's expansion, which required substantial investments in both the fleet and the facilities, was sustained via self-financing and the continuous reinvestment of the company's profits, with little need to rely on external financing. The company began spreading throughout the nation, with logistics centres being established in Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Liguria and Tuscany, and subsidiaries being established in the Veneto and Friuli regions. In 1987, the shares owned by the family were redistributed: Uncle Giuseppe's sons, Luigi and Antonio, while maintaining their operational roles within the company, decided to sell their shares to their cousins Carlo, Enrico and Luigi Giovanni, who were also listed as heirs by their uncle Mario. Cesare's Carcano's three sons also established the company Alinvest spa, which, like Fracar twenty years earlier, was used to manage the family's industrial holdings and real estate.


Logistics for everyone

In the early 1990s, once the diffusion of the family's shares had been reduced and a clear line of succession had been established, the fourth generation made its entry with the arrival of Enrico's son, Cesare Carcano, and Carlo's son, Corrado Carcano. While Luigi Giovanni's son, Andrea, an expert in international law, did not work for the family business, he nevertheless sat on the boards of directors for the group's main companies. The innovations in the industry didn't cease and the company's growing size resulted in the need for new management figures. In addition to the two cousins, ??Cesare and Corrado, the organization has further strengthened itself in recent years with the arrival of qualified executives. In 2001, the exclusive relationship that had linked the Poretti Brewery to Olona trasporti for nearly half a century was interrupted. Having become part of a multinational company, the brewery left the network of personal and fiduciary capitalism and began to follow the logic dictated by the larger organizations. The remaining activities of Olona trasporti and Fosina were taken over by the Carcano family, and the company was closed, in agreement with the Isella family. During these same years a strategic alliance was established with another family-based company of the Varese area, Ossola trasporti, specializing in oversize loads. The group's most significant endeavour during these years, however, was the establishment of Casaforte spa in 1999, the first Italian company dedicated to providing self storage services. The system, which was already in place for large clients at the Carcano and So.Ge.Ma warehouses, was based on renting out temporary storage spaces of various sizes - from 2 to 20 square metres - in this case, however, on a retail basis. The idea had already been a consolidated reality abroad for decades, and proved to be a success on the Italian market as well, with many more centres than had originally been planned being set up in just over a decade.

The demand arose from the changing conditions of urban living, whereby the available spaces were shrinking and the frequency of movement was intensifying.

The Casaforte operation required extraordinary real estate investments, and the Carcanos were the majority shareholders amongst a large group, all of whom had been selected based on personal trust. Following the establishment of Casaforte, advertising and public relations activities, which were marginalized in the transport sector, soon became of significant importance. The brand's visibility was ensured by the storage sites themselves, which were also identified based on their visual impact.

With the aim of ensuring maximum integration, as well as the utmost appeal in the eyes of private customers, Carcano traslochi also changed its name to Casaforte traslochi. The name, which combines domestic familiarity with the concept of home security, was conceived of by the artist Giorgio Vicentini, a friend of Luigi Giovanni, whose wife, Marisa Bernasconi, had been managing the "Blue Art" art gallery in Varese for years.

In terms of business associations, the family held positions on a local level, in Asea, and on a national level, in Unitai and Confetra. Cesare Carcano is currently president of the Italian self storage Association and has promoted the establishment of a European-wide federation for the same category.