Paolo Rocca: "Argentina has extraordinary potential"

At the event held to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the ProPymes Program, Paolo Rocca underscored the importance of supporting small and medium-sized companies in the communities where the Techint Group operates. The event also featured executives from the group’s companies and SMEs from the program.

ProPymes, the Techint Group's corporate program created to develop and enhance its value chain, is turning twenty this year. To mark the occasion, this year the annual ProPymes event was held in the La Rural auditorium in the City of Buenos Aires, and attended by 938 local SMEs, who shared sessions with key figures from the Techint Group as well as public officials.

During the closing session of the event, Rocca was joined by Juan Luis Manzur, the presidential chief of staff.

Rocca began by explaining the background to the program: " ProPymes was our brainchild during the 2001 crisis, a way of bringing the Techint Group closer to our suppliers to become stronger together. That was the fundamental principle; to strengthen ourselves while the problem lasted and take advantage of opportunities together, pursuing an industrial vision based on investment and the incorporation of knowledge and technology while training our human capital. Over the last twenty years, we have together overcome many obstacles. Today, the network exists thanks to the more than 900 companies at the heart of ProPymes.”

Steel, energy, and employment

The event was hosted by Argentine journalists Luis Novaresio and Luciana Geuna, and kicked off with an initial panel featuring Martín Berardi, executive president of Ternium Argentina, Carlos Pagni, journalist and political analyst, Rodolfo Santangelo, economist and director of Macroview, and Rosana Cordero, Managing Partner of Esteban Cordero.

They took a look back at Argentina's political-economic history, analyzed the challenges and discussed the outlook for the future, reviewing the local industrial and energy agenda.

Berardi shared the main conclusions of the traditional survey carried out among SMEs customers and suppliers of the Techint Group companies, and remarked: "This has been a highly unusual year for steel. The overall upswing has been solid, and consumption trends are now about improving habitat and housing. Agricultural machinery will continue to drive production and the construction market promises to generate significant value. The other markets we see adopting this trend are energy and the automotive sector, where we envisage the development of a pickup production hub for the entire region, with an export drive that is going to be critical. Investment in energy is rising, and there are plentiful opportunities around the corner that will boost Steel consumption. There is no doubt that the following twenty years will bring more technology in parallel with a far-reaching development in sustainability and education.”

Rosana Cordero referred to the twenty years of history notched up by the ProPymes Program and talked about the development and future of a family-owned auto parts company based in the Argentine city of Luján: "ProPymes inspires you, encourages you to be the best at SME level and pushes you to challenge yourself. It’s about aiming for excellence, and that is what makes us different. When SMEs feel respected in a value chain, that allows them to grow, think ahead, and pursue an investment vision.”

Gas and the generation of opportunities in Vaca Muerta

Vaca Muerta represents an opportunity to develop national value chains and consolidate gas as a key player in the energy transition. The second panel addressed the way in which ProPymes can support heavy and passenger transport, using gas as an allied fuel in the energy matrix to contribute to efforts tackling climate change. The panel included Ricardo Markous, CEO of Tecpetrol, Javier Martínez Álvarez, president of Tenaris Southern Cone, Gonzalo Benvenuto, co-founder and president of INPROCIL S.A, and Cesar Guercio, CEO of NRG Argentina.

Markous opened the panel by highlighting the importance of Vaca Muerta as an invaluable resource for the region: "The energy transition is of strategic world importance and plans must be adapted to the reality of each country. Argentina has natural gas, the main fuel needed for the energy transition, so we must make the most of the gas reserves in Vaca Muerta. Tecpetrol in Fortín de Piedra has shown the range of opportunities on offer; in two years, we went from 0% to 15% of the entire gas produced in the country. Our productivity is equal to or even better than that of the United States. However, at the moment we lack the infrastructure required to produce more gas and be able to replace imported gas oil, or diesel fuel. With the potential of Vaca Muerta, we can become the energy hub of South America.”

Martínez Álvarez emphasized the importance of gas as a key element in enabling more energy for industrial production to be more sustainable: "There is a window of opportunity for making the most of the boom in consumption, as the energy transformation process has been picking up in recent years. Vaca Muerta is an extraordinary resource and this country has a great opportunity in the form of natural gas as this will be a strategic partner for renewable energy. The use of gas, displacing coal, can bring about a reduction in CO2 emissions. We know that we can develop these resources at national level.”

For his part, Benvenuto discussed the opportunities provided by ProPyme for his company: "ProPymes enables us to be part of this transformation, opening the doors to constant growth, and helping us to overcome barriers we would not dare to break down alone. All the training and support provided mean that we feel confident and can work as a team, correcting our course and improving our performance.”

Finally, Guercio highlighted the relationship his firm has with Tecpetrol: "They’re a significant customer for us, as transporting sand crucially depends on logistics, which is why we have purchased 100 CNG trucks. There is no doubt that Argentina has a world-class asset in Vaca Muerta.”

ProPymes and the relationship with communities

Educating, innovating, and exporting are the three strategic pillars of Argentina's future agenda for sustainability. During the third session, leading SMEs gave an insight into their training programs for their people and their communities, by innovating, incorporating robotization and virtual reality, and helping to export the Argentine industry to the world. The panel featured Erika Bienek, director of community relations of the Techint Group, Luján Barbieri, COO of AD Barbieri, Fernando Badia, general manager of Badia, Martín González, co-founder and CEO of DELTA3 and Marcelo Lombardo, founder, and president of Mega.

The relationship between the Techint Group companies and the communities where they operate is instrumental to continuous growth and development. Bienek highlighted the strategic line taken by the Group to promote local projects and programs: "We have developed a strategy in conjunction with the communities where we live and work. We leverage and strengthen education because we are convinced that this is an individual and collective tool for growth. Our global programs are designed and implemented to provide equal opportunities. For instance, our Technical Gene program is about strengthening and modernizing educational centers, focusing on learning in mathematics and robotics and developed in conjunction with the ProPymes Program. During the pandemic, we worked to reconnect students and avoid them dropping out of school by improving the impact on their learning. The Technical Gene program involves SMEs who provide training opportunities for thousands of kids who join their companies annually for internships as part of their active learning process.”

Trade is one of the central issues in education. Soldando Comunidades, which means Welding Communities, sprang from a ProPymes initiative to promote local training, providing young people with tools to help them expand their knowledge and gain more opportunities. Badia explained that “It’s been a long road, as our goal is to train people to work to the highest professional standards. In this first stage of Soldando Comunidades, we have trained six trainees. For us, Tecpetrol has provided significant help in management issues so we could start looking for these positions in our communities. With their support, we grew from fifty employees to 200, increasing offices and workshops five-fold. Welders are critical for Vaca Muerta, as there’s a weld wherever you look.”

Taking another look at the importance education has for business development, Barbieri said that “We need people in each of our company's positions who are able to take decisions and risks. We do this with a robust training program supported by ProPymes in a context of continuous work and collaboration. We started out as a small company that needed to continue growing and becoming more professional, and thanks to this program, we’ve been able to expand, develop and grow exponentially.”

González added that "we are always thinking about the future. Virtual reality technologies are the future, the lead-in to a host of different industries. The idea is to replace real machines with virtual ones, leading to savings at all levels. One of the principal advantages is that you can hold emergency drills to avoid accidents, as the number of simulations that can be reproduced is endless. ProPymes gave us the key to open ourselves to an international market, as we are a small self-financing company. In 2017, Tenaris put its trust in us when it began using the simulators that we export to many countries.”

Finally, Lombardo explained how much ProPymes has boosted his company. "We’ve always pursued our dream and the illusion of exporting our brand. The Argentine market is quite variable and has several limitations. However, little by little, we began to take our products to neighboring countries, until we got to Brazil, which is a massive market. To meet demand, we decided to find a partner, and are now working with multinational companies with a global presence, reaching countries such as Russia and Ukraine. We have been working with ProPymes for twenty years, and have taken part in over 500 training programs fundamental for the development of our export strategy, receiving quality advice to help us steer through international negotiations and open the doors to large-scale global companies.”

The future of SMEs in the country

Paolo Rocca closed the annual seminar for the community of customers and suppliers of the Techint Group companies, flanked by Juan Luis Manzur, who shared his views on the challenges and opportunities for the ProPymes value chain in Argentina’s future.

Rocca thanked everybody for the efforts made during the pandemic and for joining the event: "Thank you all for being here today. It’s a great satisfaction to be able to see each other again after two years of the pandemic. These have been tough years for all of us. I know that SMEs have had to apply extremely rigorous protocols in order to continue operating, and we have all put in a lot of effort to help the communities where we work, bolstering supplies to support the healthcare infrastructure.”

Manzur pointed out that "Today, this company is a global leader in cutting-edge technology. Thanks to this program, many of Techint's supplier companies were able to start exporting. That is what it means to be a brand, the stamp of quality, which allows us to be globally competitive. The program began with twenty companies, and today there are close to a thousand, thanks to the trust fostered through predictable proposals and programs. We have to develop the necessary stimuli for these programs to prosper.”

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