Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the performance evolution of enterprises in Italian industrial districts. In particular, economic performance indicators are analysed for Arezzo goldsmith enterprises, to highlight: differences in the goldsmith local systems performances; the role played by firm size in the evolution trajectories; and the emergence of a medium‐sized nucleus of firms with better performance. Design/methodology/approach – The paper first conducts a brief literature review on medium‐sized firms in Italian industrial districts. Then it examines the economic‐financial indicators of 183 Arezzo goldsmith firms to evaluate firm performance in comparative terms both with other Italian industrial districts and with firm size. Finally it focuses its attention on 15 medium‐sized firms or groups, carrying out a statistical analysis by organizational model comparing the aggregate data of the Arezzo goldsmith district. Findings – The results regarding the Arezzo experience show: a reduction of competitive capabilities compared with other industrial districts; considerable difficulties for both small enterprises and the historical large firm leader; and the emergence of a medium‐sized firm nucleus which seems better able to manage a changing competitive environment. Research limitations/implications – The main implication for researchers and SME (small to medium‐sized enterprises) consultants is that the selection process currently in play among Italian industrial districts and local enterprises appears to reward only certain entrepreneurial categories. Findings of this exploratory study need future research both at an inter‐industry level and with international comparative analysis. Originality/value – Medium‐size firms represent a new area of research on SMEs. Empirical evidence supports the research hypothesis.
EuroMed Journal of Business – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jul 18, 2008
Keywords: Medium‐sized enterprises; Gold; Economic performance; Entrepreneurialism; Small enterprises; Italy