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Philip Morris doubles its investments in the Emilia region, rocketing to €1 billion

by Ilaria Vesentini

Just nine months after the inauguration of their plant in Crespellano—a €500 million investment with 600 new jobs, making it the largest facility that produces tobacco sticks for low-risk IQOS ‘cigarettes’ in the world—Philip Morris has announced that it will double down on its Bologna-based factory: another €500 million and up to 600 further hirings, including mechanical, chemical, and electronics specialists, in order to satisfy the booming demand for smoke-free electronic devices.

The goal is to become fully-operational by 2018, with a worldwide productive capacity of 100 billion “HEETS” (tobacco sticks) per year, between Bologna’s mega-factory (which was initially planned to produce 30 billion HEETS per year) and their other plants in Europe, which are either being built or reconverted.

This redoubling of their efforts in Bologna (to be completed within 18 months) has come just a few days after the announcement of another large investment by the tobacco corporation: €320 million for a “Greenfield” HEETS production plant in Dresden, Germany. Their production centers in Greece, Romania, and Russia are also being reconverted. This rapid expansion, “shows the level of our efforts to realize, as quickly as possible, the group’s vision for a smokeless future,” explains Frederic de Wilde, Philip Morris International (PMI)’s President of the European Union Region. The Virginia-based titans own six of the top 15 most important international tobacco brands in 180 countries, with 80,000 employees worldwide and $75 billion in turnover.

In Italy, aside from their headquarters in Rome (which boasts 500 employees), PMI controls the former Intertaba site in Bologna (which is now Philip Morris Manufacturing&Technology S.p.A.), with two plants in Zola Predosa and Crespellano that employ roughly 1,000 employees — though that should rise to 1,600 once the expansion has been completed. Zola Predosa is their historical site: after opening in 1963, it became their corporate center of excellence for producing and industrializing complex filters, as well as preparing new products to be launched on the market.

Crespellano, which was inaugurated in September 2016, is Philip Morris’s largest heatsticks (the tobacco component of IQOS) factory in the world. It is the first of four “smoke-free” platform-products that PMI’s researchers (since 2008, the company has invested more than $3 billion into R&D, with more than 400 scientists) have created in order to reduce the risks involved in cigarette smoking.

The IQOS device is being marketed in 25 countries, and it has already won over two million “traditional” smokers—though the demand is still skyrocketing.

The American corporation’s double-down is a victory for the Emilia-Romagna region’s entire production system, and for the district itself, which is the global leader in tobacco packaging machinery. Romano Prodi, the former President of the European Commission from Bologna, took note of the exceptional nature of this investment: it’s the first time that a foreign multinational company has created a plant from scratch in order to launch a new product, and they’re doubling their efforts within just one year.