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Taking off

Antje Binder, Philipp Barth / tkwApril 22, 2013

While the younger generation is leaving Apulia in southern Italy, two young entrepreneurs returned - with a business plan that is taking them to new heights.

Luciano Belviso and Angelo Petrosillo
Image: DW/A. Binder

In Apulia the crisis is not immediately visible. It's hiding behind old city walls, in charming narrow streets, and on fishing boats in the harbor. The only shouts of protest are prompted by the local soccer team.

Italy's economic misery doesn't inspire anyone in these parts to take to the streets. And why should it? The people of mezzorgiorno, as the lower half of the country is known, are no strangers to the crisis that has now taken the upper half hostage.

In economic terms the South has been limping behind its northerly counterpart for decades, and is considered one of western Europe's least developed regions. More than 40 percent of those under 25 are unemployed.

Prima ultralight airplane
Prima is ultra light and ultra fastImage: DW/A. Binder

School friends Angelo Petrosillo, 30, and Luciano Belviso, 29, both come from Apulia. And it is there, in the coastal town of Monopoli, that they started their Blackshape business two years ago. A couple of years earlier the idea would have been ridiculed.

"Ever since we were little, we were told we'd have to leave the South if we wanted to have successful careers," Angelo Petrosillo said.

Career or home?

Like most of their friends, as young men they turned their backs on their native South. Angelo went to Pisa, where he studied law, while Luciano graduated as an aviation engineer in Turin. For their masters degrees, they both went abroad: to Switzerland, Russia and Paris.

Well qualified, the world was their oyster, and they quickly found their first, and well-paid jobs. They belonged to the breed of privileged, mobile young people that Italy is losing hand over fist.

Blackshape warehouse, full of airplanes
The company's order books are fullImage: DW/A. Binder

The only time they went back to Apulia was to visit family. Until 2009, when they decided to take part in a competition which promised start-up capital for the best entrepreneurial idea, as long as the winner was based locally. The jury was convinced by their entry: a modern ultra light aircraft made of carbon, in Apulia.

"We were actually looking for tips about starting up a business," Angelo Petrosillo said. "By the end of the conversation, the investor was on board with a million euros to get us going."

The young businessmen have been running Blackshape for three years now, and have already created some 40 jobs. "You have to dare to think big," Lucian Belviso said. "And that is a characteristic that is missing in many young people in Italy."

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