A support for restart and growth of the Biellese territory: the launch of Fondazione BIellezza
The initiative, conceived before the outburst of the pandemic, wants to contribute to a significant growth in the activities linked to incoming tourism, which would offer new job and investment opportunities in the area, most importantly to young people. The project has been launched by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Biella, Gruppo Sella and Gruppo Zegna, with the support of Cittadellarte.

To contribute to boosting the Biellese economy, in particular in the well-being and hospitality sectors, by pursuing a substantial increase in the number of tourists and of potential new residents in the territory: this is the main objective of Fondazione BIellezza, recently presented in the course of a press conference attended by the founding members Paolo Zegna (Gruppo Zegna), Franco Ferraris (Fondazione CRB) and Maurizio Sella (Gruppo Sella), together with Cittadellarte’s director Paolo Naldini. This new initiative – conceived in February and therefore before the Coronavirus emergency – is currently open to new members and has already received important responses: “The call to civic responsibility – we read in the press release – has been answered by over 30 associations, businesses and private citizens, committing to pledge, as a whole, about 2.5 million euros in the next three years”.

The project relies on a private juridical instrument, i.e. the foundation, to pursue a strong public interest, that is an endeavour to develop activities linked to tourism in the Biellese territory and to offer new job and investment opportunities for young people in particular.
Fondazione BIellezza – whose name is a play on words between ‘BI’ (Biella’s province code) and the Italian word for beauty (‘bellezza’) – will strive to synergistically support the projects and activities that follow from the inclusion of Biella into the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, which represents “an important acknowledgement for the whole territory, – we read in the press release – which the members see as an unmissable opportunity to promote the Biellese territory internationally”.

Among the first activities of the foundation will be the creation of a ‘Hospitality Academy’, aimed at providing suitable training to the personnel who will have to meet the requirements of the new tourist fluxes. The Academy will be established through a collaboration between Città Studi Biella and the higher-education course in Hospitality Management of the Hospitality Training Institute of Rovereto and Levico Terme in Trentino. Recognised also by the Swiss educational system, this institute is an excellence characterised by its Italian style of hospitality, developing technically prepared professional figures with a background of humanistic and artistic education. Here is where Fondazione BIellezza will come into play, contributing – with the possible support of external partners – with grants for students.

The new organisation is already looking to the future: it’s currently working – approaching completion – on a whole new portal dedicated to the Biellese territory, which will feature the most important cultural, recreational and sport events; the objective of the website is to present them in a clear and captivating way to tourists and residents alike. Fondazione BIellezza will also pay particular attention to the elderly, through initiatives and programmes emphasising the advantages of visiting or living in the Biellese territory, becoming an active part of its social context, e.g. the reuse of a vast local real-estate heritage of interest, also from the point of view of its economic value, to be converted into appropriate spaces and services to share, besides the promotion of proximity shopping.

BIellezza’s project draws inspiration from the private-public experience and the achievements of the Wellness Valley*, an example of collaboration, organisation and careful planning the Biellese territory intends to follow on the strength of its own characteristics. “To support the launch of projects already conceived and to be conceived, in line with the above-mentioned objectives, – we read in the press release – the founding members have postulated a precise governance that has identified as the first step the constitution of Fondazione BIellezza, aiming at being recognised as a non-profit organisation, whose board of directors is formed of Maurizio Sella, Franco Ferraris, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Paolo Naldini and the members nominated by the assembly of the private sponsors (Lincoln Germanetti, Marco Ploner and Emanuele Panza, and its president Paolo Zegna). The Fondazione will also rely on a strategic committee”. The operational aspects will be conducted by specific work groups composed of operators from the same sector and guided by a leader who will have the duty and responsibility to coordinate the work of their group and to liaise with the representatives of the other teams so as to develop a consistent strategy.

The real surprise – the promoters commented in unison – has been the extraordinary, prompt and enthusiastic collaboration of almost all the people and businesses the project has been presented to. Especially in the wake of the recent recognition by UNESCO, this initiative represents another important sign reinforcing the idea that the city’s economic and social issues, exacerbated by the disastrous crisis generated by the Coronavirus pandemic, can be resolved. Problems can be faced not only confiding in the entrepreneurial skills of single individuals, but also establishing – in a consistent and convincing manner – a network of old and new excellences. In regard to the latter, we hope they’ll be created mainly by young people wishing to participate in building their future in their territory in a responsible way. Our main priority will be to cement the trust we have gained so far, acting so as to expand and strengthen the project, and more and more valuing team work”.

With Fondazione BIellezza – the promoters add – we are gambling on a non-widespread approach in which private entities promote, support and carry out initiatives and projects of strong social value. Our hope is that they will attract the interest and commitment of Italian and European public institutions, in order to contribute – for example by doubling the number of tourists in the next few years – to recovering part of the wealth and jobs lost as a consequence of the changes that have invested the local textile industry”.

The press conference presenting Fondazione BIellezza also anticipated the launch of a people’s referendum to choose a slogan describing in brief the identity of the territory, which will become the key message in future strategies of communication and promotion of the Biellese territory as a place of well-being, relationships and quality of life. Twenty people of different ages, professions and personal characteristics – but sharing a passion for their territory – worked on elaborating a range of proposals soon to be published on the Fondazione BIellezza website so that they can be digitally voted for by the public, which will include the students of local high schools.

* This initiative, started in 2003 in Romagna by Nerio Alessandri (founder and MD of Technogym) with over 250 public and private stakeholders, is today acknowledged as an international point of reference for territories that want to pursue a long-term sustainable development focusing on people’s well-being and quality of life.