Technogym opened its new headquarters Saturday in Cesena, Italy, and welcomed President Bill Clinton at its inaugural Wellness Congress.
The fitness equipment manufacturer consolidated its Italian-based manufacturing facilities onto one 37-acre campus. The campus also houses the company’s offices, a research and innovation center, and a wellness center that includes a gym for employees, a conference center, a library and a staff restaurant that serves locally grown food.
Architect Antonio Citterio designed the campus, which is built on the concepts of eco-sustainability and bio-architecture. The north-facing building exploits natural heat exchange to keep the interior warm in the winter and cool in summer months, reducing emissions from fuel consumption for heating and air conditioning systems. Large windows in the facility can be opened, exploiting natural recirculation of air to cool the interior without the need for air conditioning systems.
The grand opening of the facility was held in the morning in one of the manufacturing buildings, with large screens projecting videos about the company and the events occurring on the stage. A large yellow curtain with the Technogym logo adorning it concealed much of the production facility behind it.
Barbara Serra, an Italian-born former BBC producer and presenter who now is a London-based TV presenter on Al Jazeera TV, was the emcee for the event, which was presented in Italian. She spoke about how Nerio Alessandri, founder of Technogym, started Technogym at the age of 22 in the garage of his parents’ house with the help of his 16-year-old brother, Perluigi Alessandri, who is now vice chairman of the company.
Nerio Alessandri then spoke about how he started the company as a wellness company. He said he anticipates this area of Italy becoming the Wellness Valley, and he anticipates 25,000 people per year will come through the campus to see the wellness initiatives the company is creating.
“This is not meant to be just a factory,” Alessandri said through an interpreter. “It is a wellness experience.”
Alessandri also said that the key to business success is innovation, but innovation cannot be created alone. Instead, the industry must come together and form partnerships. He also noted how many people had come together to create the Technogym Village.
“This dream we want to create—thanks to all the people who believed in it,” Alessandri said. “We have created it.”
Perluigi Alessandri then joined his brother on stage for an emotional hug, the video screens showing their mother in the audience. Together, the brothers dropped the yellow curtain behind the stage on which they stood, revealing the manufacturing facility to a round of applause.
The crowd then chanted for Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who was among the dignitaries at the event, to speak. He took the microphone briefly to offer praise for Technogym and Alessandri, noting that America may pride itself on being a nation of self-made men, but “who better is an example of a self-made man than Nerio Alessandri?”
A luncheon followed the Village opening. After the luncheon, Technogym presented its first Wellness Congress to a group of about 1,000 Technogym employees, health and government officials, Technogym customers and media in a large conference room on the third floor of the facility. Much of the Technogym Village opening and the Wellness Congress was streamed live on Technogym’s website and Facebook page.
Panel sessions were followed by the keynote speaker, President Bill Clinton. Clinton arrived during the panel presentations, and Alessandri showed Clinton around the facility before bringing him upstairs to the conference room.
“I just tried out the equipment here,” Clinton said as he took the stage. “Now I don’t just want to buy new equipment; I want to apply for a job here.”
He later said that his visit had inspired him to do more to improve the health of his own employees at the Clinton Foundation, which he founded after his presidency to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote healthier childhoods and protect the environment.
During his keynote address, Clinton related how the United States’ biggest problem is childhood obesity but that malnutrition also is a problem. The Clinton Foundation is working on the obesity issue, especially as it relates to children.
Prior to Clinton’s presentation, David Rowan, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, offered thoughts on how technology is changing the fitness world.
“It is now a more data-driven, connected and sharing world,” Rowan said. “This is an opportunity for the fitness industry.”
On the Globesity panel session that followed Rowan’s remarks were Michael Pratt, senior advisor for Global Health National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention; Steven Blair, epidemiologist, North Carolina University; Edward M. Phillips, director of the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine at Harvard Medical School; Lee Chee Pheng, president of the National Association for Fitness Instructors; and Daniela Lucini, researcher with Humanitas.
Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the World Food Programme, also addressed the crowd, speaking about how the organization has fed millions of starving people, but how it now faces a new problem—over-nutrition. She said that the world has 43 million obese children, and chronic disease is escalating throughout most of the world because of obesity.
During the Wellness Congress, Technogym announced that in March 2013, it would release a range of new Android-based products on which consumers can download as many apps as they want as well as use Skype. No further details were released.
Technogym also announced that in addition to opening the facility in Cesena, the company was opening its U.S. headquarters in Fairfield, NJ. The Fairfield location houses offices, a showroom, a wellness center for employees, a training center and a quality assurance lab. The Seattle office, where U.S. operations had been headquartered, will be closing.
The move was made to bring the U.S. headquarters closer to its U.S. warehouse in the Northeast and cut down on shipping time for its U.S. customers, according to the company.