Gruppo Beltrame

Head 30 miles west of Venice and you'll be in Vicenza, a city with a population of 110,000. Gruppo Beltrame is a steel concern with over $900 million in revenues, 1,800 employees and operations in six European countries. The address for Beltrame's head office leads me a huge steel manufacturing plant on the edge of town. It's a bustling industrial park area and there's the usual not-very-pleasant smell in the air that usually surrounds steel-making plants.

There's a long driveway leading to the plant and visitors share the road with the coming and going of large tractor-trailer trucks delivering who knows what. Head office visitors park and check in at a guard booth. The truckers also have to stop, park their rigs and check in at the guard booth. So, I'm standing at the guard booth with about a dozen truck drivers who all have to fill out forms. The line is very slow. One of the drivers in line behind me asks about my bike. He speaks English and after a little bit of conversation he says I'm standing in the wrong line-that I should walk around the guard booth to the other side. Sure enough, one of the two security guards comes over to the window. This security guard saw me ride up on my bicycle and so why did he let me stand with the truckers-did he think I was making a delivery? The unfriendly guard doesn't speak English so I show him the name of Giancarlo Beltrame on my clipboard and ask to speak to Beltrame's secretary. Who's Giancarlo Beltrame? He's the CEO and his grandfather (Antonio Beltrame) founded the company here in Vicenza back in 1896.

I'm handed a phone with Beltrame's assistant on the other end and ask if she remembers my letter of introduction mailed a month ago to CEO Beltrame and if so, where was it was referred. The assistant, who sounds very nice, says Beltrame probably saw the letter and deemed it "unimportant". "Are you trying to say he probably tossed it in the trash?" I ask. She acknowledges with, "I'm afraid so". I ask if there's somebody who would have a few minutes to meet with me and she says it wouldn't be possible.

When companies don't let me on the premises I'm usually pretty good in at least snapping a photo of the building where the head honcho hangs his hat. However, the guard booth is located so far from the plant that I can't see anything in the distance resembling an office building. So, the picture accompanying this story doesn't show much except for the steel mill.

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