MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Venzaghi Centro Industriale Srl

Historical Profile

The establishment of the business and its early developments

In 1871, at just twenty years of age and following a brief apprenticeship with a local company, Achille Venzaghi began a small business in Busto Arsizio producing cotton shawls using only a few hand looms. The enterprise began under the name of his father, Giuseppe Venzaghi, a gold merchant who, in his later years, became involved in trading fabrics. Achille's decision, therefore, was most likely derived from this family history, and his fledgling business soon expanded thanks to his skills. In 1876, in fact, in order to further expand his business, Achille Venzaghi founded a company with his uncles Bossi and Restelli (Bossi, Restelli & C.). In 1881, the company was dissolved and was replaced by the company "F.lli Venzaghi di Giuseppe", which Achille founded along with his two brothers, Luigi and Pietro, for the production of cotton shawls and fabrics using handlooms. The new company was located in a factory on Via XX Settembre, which was rented from the company Carlo Candiani. After just one year, F.lli Venzaghi already had the means to build its own facilities on via Mazzini, which would be used for dyeing and weaving.

In 1887, Achille Venzaghi took his first trip to South America, following his friend Enrico Dell'Acqua (a true pioneer in the business of creating international trade opportunities for the Upper Milan textile industry), with the intention of setting up a stable sales network for exporting his company's own products.

The increase in purchase orders for fabrics to be shipped abroad from Italy drove the company to replace its manual looms with mechanical ones in order to increase its production capacity, thus resulting in the establishment of one of the area's first mechanical weaving mills in 1892.

The company initially purchased one hundred mechanical looms, which were used to produce raw and coloured fabrics. This number, however, progressively increased to a total of 450. During these same years, Achille Venzaghi travelled to Egypt and Turkey in search of new markets, thus acquiring new contracts which would contribute to the company's continued growth.

From 1906 to 1928

In 1906, the Company Fratelli Venzaghi di Giuseppe, now one of the most successful textile companies in the Busto Arsizio area, was transformed into the public limited company Cotonificio Venzaghi. The enterprise was headed by Achille Venzaghi, as chairman of the board of directors, and his brother Pietro.

The following year, the company implemented a business expansion program which included the construction of an American cotton spinning mill with nearly 12,000 spindles.

This expansion process continued even beyond 1907, the year in which the entire industry recorded its first overproduction crisis. In 1909, in fact, the company decided to create a new spinning facility and perfected the production capacities of its systems by completing the dyeing and preparation departments: the objective was to obtain a complete cotton processing cycle, from the raw material to the finished fabric. The onset of the First World War led to serious difficulties for the Upper Milan cotton industry due to shortages in raw materials, energy and fuel, and as a result of the closures of the overseas markets, which had been painstakingly conquered just a few years earlier. This difficult period was overcome thanks to important supply orders issued by the Italian and French armed forces, which, in fact, even became an additional opportunity for growth.

When the war ended in 1918, Achille Venzaghi, in memory of his son Carlo, who died while performing his military service, established a pension fund for the cotton mill's employees who were unable to work, as well as a maternity fund for the company's pregnant female workers.

In 1920, within the scope of a policy of diversifying its investments, which had resulted from the difficulties faced immediately following the war, the company participated in the establishment of the Busto Arsizio independent institute for the people's houses and the Italo-Somala Agricultural Society, and even took part in the increase of the share capital for the public diesel oil consortium. In 1921, as a founding member of the company, Achille Venzaghi found himself unwittingly involved in the scandal surrounding the failure of the Banca Italiana di Sconto, an institution that was well-established in Italy and abroad, but was founded and had deep seated ties within the Upper Milan area. During these years, Achille's son, Giovanni Venzaghi, managed the company along with his cousins ??Silvio and Mario.

In 1924, following a new increase in the demand for fabrics, Cotonificio Venzaghi purchased a newly renovated weaving mill in Cimbro, near Vergiate, from the limited company Manifattura di Gemonio.

During those same years, Cotonificio Venzaghi's expansion was slowed by a reduction in the available workforce, which resulted in staff being recruited from more remote areas. It was at this time that the company began building a workers' lodge comprised of 147 apartments, which were leased exclusively to the families of workers employed by the company. Between 1926 and 1929, a number of additional buildings adjacent to the company's premises were purchased in order to establish new workers' lodges, as well as to expand the warehouses and the spinning facilities – whereby production increased to about 24,000 spindles in 1928.

From 1929 to 1939

The economic crisis of the early thirties - with the collapse of wholesale prices and the loss of certain foreign markets due to competition on behalf of the British, American and Japanese industries - also affected Cotonificio Venzaghi, which reduced its workweek to include only four days. The serious crisis in the cotton industry and the complete absence of orders, for both the foreign and domestic markets, forced the company to produce warehouse stock in order to avoid eliminating additional working days and, above all, to prevent layoffs, which would nevertheless become necessary as of 1932 following the streamlining of the spinning department.

Achille Venzaghi passed away in 1933 and was succeeded by his son, Pietro, as company president. In 1934, Antonio Ferrario, the husband of Maria Venzaghi, Achille's daughter, joined the company's board of directors. It was at this time that the company established the Achille Venzaghi Fund, which used revenues from the leases on the workers' lodgings to ensure a supplementary pension for Cotonificio Venzaghi employees. With the quotas imposed on cotton imports by the government authorities in 1935, the company was forced to use new domestic fibres for its production processes, such as rayon and cottonized hemp, with the consequent adaptation of the processing facilities.

During this period, the large orders on behalf of the War Ministry sustained the company's livelihood by compensating for fixed costs. It was still 1935 when Pietro Venzaghi passed away and was replaced as president by Achille's son, Giovanni Venzaghi.

Towards the end of the 1930s, exports resumed and the company began making a satisfactory return. In 1939, a new heating system was installed to replace the existing one (from 1905), which was no longer suitable due to the enlargement of the buildings and the increased rate of production.

From 1939 to 1976

The onset of the Second World War led to serious difficulties for the company, which once again lost its foreign markets and further suffered due to the rationing of raw materials. Thus, once again, it began relying upon military orders. Avoiding layoffs, which would eventually become necessary regardless, the company braced itself to face a number of difficult years.

Following the war and during the first phases of reconstruction, a number of major investments were approved for new machinery and building renovations starting in 1949. In fact, a new dyeworks was built, followed by the construction of a folding department, a number of years later, for the packaging of the fabrics. During these years, the company made the most of the economic boom and underwent more than a decade of rapid growth.

After the mid-1960s, the usual practice of textile distribution changed, with wholesalers gradually being replaced by garment manufacturers. Cotonificio Venzaghi, which dyed the thread, not the fabric, did not to take this opportunity to transfer the bulk of its sales to garment manufacturers. In fact, the practice of end customers obtaining supplies from wholesalers and then individually tailoring the desired outfit was gradually disappearing, and was being replaced by the practice of purchasing finished garments.

This led to a gradual reduction in the company's sales, along with the gradual disappearance of its wholesale customers.

In 1968, however, the company still had 360 employees. It was during these years that the board of directors was joined by Pietro's son, Camillo Venzaghi, who was mainly engaged in spinning operations, as well as by Achille Vezaghi's maternal grandson, Achille Nidasio. Camillo's brother, Oreste, on the other hand, became involved in the company's book keeping department. The crisis in the textile industry forced the company to close its facilities in Cimbro in 1971. The subsequent energy crisis of 1973 further increased the difficulties of the company, which was unable to make reasonable profits due to increased production costs.

That same year, Camillo's son, Luigi Venzaghi, became the company's president and managing director and was joined a few years later by his brother, Pietro, who became the company's legal representative.

From 1977 to the present

In 1977, acting on impulse, Luigi Venzaghi began the first industrial restructuring operations, which by this time had become urgent. These operations were only carried out following a number of disagreements and divergences of opinion amongst the shareholders. In fact, thanks to his previous work experience for other companies, Luigi Venzaghi, who had earned a degree in business and economics, was the first to realize that the company was mainly suffering from an overabundance of labour: the number of employees was no longer justified by the volume of production.

In 1978, therefore, the spinning department, being that which weighed most on the company's budget due to the technology required and the rapid obsolescence of the machinery, was closed.

That same year, Luigi Venzaghi opened a fabric trading enterprise, completely independent from Cotonificio Venzaghi, along with a partner. At the same time, his brother, Pietro, founded a trading company in the plastics sector, along with a number of others. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the position of chairman of the board of directors was held in succession by Camillo Venzaghi and Achille Nidasio.

A number of difficulties that had arisen amongst the partners prevented the recapitalization of the company, whereby Luigi Venzaghi even raised the possibility of stopping production. In 1982, a decision on behalf of the branch of the family that was focused upon preserving the company's assets, led to the withdrawal of the two brothers, Pietro and Luigi, from the board of directors due to inevitable differences in business strategies.

Just one year later, however, the two brothers were called back to lead the company, with the full confidence of all of the shareholders. Thus, the company proceeded to restructure its production department by selling its old looms and gradually reducing its staff. The sale of a number of its vast real estate assets accumulated over the years has allowed for a slow and less traumatic reduction in the company's industrial activities, to the point that, in 1985, the dyeworks was even entrusted to the partnership of a third party. Cotonificio Venzaghi has thus ceased all production activities and has transformed itself into the real estate holding company Venzaghi centro industriale, which leases its empty industrial warehouses and other available spaces to third parties. In 1989, the company became a limited liability company.

In 1999, Luigi's son, Mario Camillo Venzaghi, was co-opted to the board following the death of Pietro Venzaghi. Today, the company has a total of three employees, two of which are part-time.