Haroldo Ferreira takes on Executive Presidency of Abicalçados

Born in Rolante, a town with a little over 20 thousand inhabitants in the region of Vale do Paranhana, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, Haroldo Ferreira was invited to take on the position of executive president of Abicalçados at the end of last year. The invitation came from the then president of the organization's Governing Board, Rosnei Alfredo da Silva.  Without hesitation, Ferreira accepted the challenge. He had already been working closely with the association's claims due to his activity as president of the Union of Footwear Companies in the state of Bahia.


With an undergraduate degree in Business Management, a graduate degree in Production Management, and MBAs in Leadership and Health Management, at the age of 52, Ferreira is married and has two children. Abicalçados's new leader is proactive and close to the staff, features he inherited from his more than 20 years working at Azaleia – from 1986 to 2008. "The company's Human Resources department – which he headed for a long time – was very important while Nestor Herculano de Paula (founder of Grupo Azaleia and former president of Abicalçados, who died prematurely in 2004) was the CEO. Proximity to employees was very significant for the leadership at the time," Ferreira recalls.


However, the path of Abicalçados' new leader began before he joined Azaleia, more precisely in 1983, when he worked in the administrative and tax department of ​​Musa Calçados, a major exporter headquartered in the city of Sapiranga, in the countryside of the state of Rio Grande do Sul.  "At the time, I was 17 years old and I began to be passionate about the footwear industry," he recalls.


Upon taking over the Executive Presidency of the Union of Footwear Companies in the state of Bahia in 2005, Ferreira began his life as a leader in the footwear industry. His mission there was to work for the development of an industry that grew exponentially, with new projects, creating jobs and generating income for the state. "Through the union, I, along with entrepreneurs, often requested improvements from the Government and its departments, which provided me with much experience," says Ferreira.


His performance in that union drew attention at Abicalçados. "I joined the organization's Union Committee in 2013, but I had already been working as an interlocutor of the industry for the creation of a specific annex for footwear in NR 12 (safety standard for machinery) since 2008. Just like engineer Eduardo Michellon was the interlocutor for machine manufacturers, I played that role on behalf of footwear manufacturers, with the union of workers and the Government. It was a difficult task, but it ended successfully; nowadays, safety is very important for entrepreneurs and workers in the footwear industry," he recalls.


The industry

Abicalçados' new leader highlights that the Brazilian footwear industry decreased in recent years. "It shrank, especially due to the domestic and international economic situation.  Nowadays, our production capacity is much greater than our consumption, an idle capacity of over 25%. The main obstacle is precisely the weakened demand due to unemployment and financial default rates. In the international issue, we face a serious competitiveness problem related to the Brazil Cost, an obstacle we hope the current government will remove, for the most part, still in these four years," he assesses.


For him, structural reforms are essential to make room for new investment, fostering the country's social and economic development. As for the Pension Reform – under discussion in the Brazilian National Congress –, Ferreira points out that, if it is approved, it will enable the long-awaited Tax Reform, which would reduce part of the Brazil Cost.  According to him, even if at first the tax burden is not reduced, the lessened bureaucracy and the flexibility of the entrepreneurial activity would already be healthy for the industrial sector. "There is a need to resume legal certainty,” he says.  For the leader, the Federal Government has been moving in this direction, but still shyly. He exemplifies with the announcement of changes to the Regulatory Standards, announced in late July.  "Three out of 36 will change, but it is already progress," he mentions.





Ferreira lists, among the main challenges of his term, representativeness, by following important claims, such as the commercial opening announced by the Federal Government, which would be carried out gradually and concomitantly with the reduction of the Brazil Cost. "If they cut the import tax by 20 percentage points – nowadays for the footwear industry that would mean a decrease of the average from the current 35% to 15% – and the same is done for the Brazil Cost, it would be great.  We would not lose anything in the foreign market and would be more competitive in the domestic market, where we sell over 85% of the industry's production. But in order for that to actually happen, we need to always be vigilant," he says.


Even though he looks favorably at the bilateral trade agreements between Mercosur and the European Union and at the possibility of another agreement with the United States, Ferreira points out that monitoring is necessary so that the footwear industry is not harmed in the negotiations. “In the matter regarding the agreement with the European bloc, for example, we put forward a claim to contemplate the rule of origin – which states that 60% of the inputs used in footwear must originate in the exporting country –, which was accepted.  The risk was that Asian manufacturers could use a European country as an export platform without the imposed tariffs,” he explains, stressing that the same claim must be taken to a free trade negotiation with the United States.

Also among his main challenges, Ferreira states that the issue of restricted substances in footwear will be strongly discussed, through CB-11, a group that aims to create a standard in this regard.  "With this, we will conquer important markets, especially in the United States and Europe, which pay close attention to the issue," he foresees.

Another challenge, Ferreira adds, is getting close to the unions in footwear clusters throughout Brazil, reinforcing the power of association. "It is also necessary to keep and improve projects to adapt the footwear industry to new times, of the so-called fourth industrial revolution, but so as to make this more tangible for the industry, presenting the issue in a more practical and less theoretical way," he concludes.



Ferreira takes over the chair held by Heitor Klein, who has been serving Abicalçados for over 27 years, first as executive director, assuming the position of the Executive Presidency in 2013. Klein continues to serve the organization as a consultant.