In 1919, after the Great War, when faced with the choice of accepting a job as a Civil Engineer in Sondrio, or embarking on an entrepreneurial adventure, the young engineer Enea Mattei had no doubts about choosing the second path. And from there began the centennial story of Mattei, the company that has made history in the compressed air industry with its exclusive rotary vane technology.
Enea Mattei, born in Morbegno, Sondrio, on 15 June 1887 came from a family of humble origins. He was the second of three sons and after graduating in engineering at Bologna in 1912, he served as an officer in the First World War, during which time he had the opportunity to take a course of the Combat Engineers focused on the use of compressors.
Thanks to his solid training, he soon realised the great potential of compressed air as a source of energy, an impressive feat given the back-drop at that time in Italy there was not even a specialised industry to speak of. After the Great War he decided to turn down a guaranteed job as a Civil Engineer to start his own business, despite the difficult economic situation. The story of the Mattei company, as we know it today, began in 1919 in a small workshop in via Padova in Milan, where Enea Mattei worked on war remnants acquired by the State.
In 1927 he married Sandra Bruni, who would also accompany him on his entrepreneurial adventure. Despite his life being focused in the Milan area, he remained very close to his hometown in Valtellina, where he often returned and was appreciated for his great philanthropic commitments to youth education.
In light of the increased industrial demand for compressors, the company also moved on to the design and production of machinery. Between the 1920s and 1950s there was an explosion in the numbers of compressors produced by Ing. Enea Mattei, who in 1934 built the first compressor with a Diesel engine. The factory was continually expanding and between 1938 & 1940, a new factory was opened in Milan, along with an iron foundry in nearby Monza employing 180 staff.
Mattei, now a well-known name in the Italian industry, took on an important role during the Second World War by winning numerous government contracts. At the end of the conflict, it was again time to roll up the sleeves, and Ing. Enea Mattei understood the importance of opening to new markets overseas, becoming the leading player in the supply of compressed air for the construction of major building and infrastructure works.
At the death of Ing. Enea Mattei in 1955, his business intuition and his work were carried forward by his wife Sandra.
In 1958 the company foresaw the shift in demand towards lighter and smaller compressors, introducing the innovative rotary vane technology, which has remained the company’s trademark.
In the following years Mattei saw an incessant development: becoming a joint stock company in 1960 and creating the modern Vimodrone plant, thanks also to the dynamic contributions from Giulio Contaldi who became CEO in 1963.
He added further impetus to the international expansion activities, with increased exports to more industrialised countries and the opening of foreign branches.
Today, the Mattei that started as a small workshop in Milan, is now an international group with 250 employees, 8 branches and representation offices all over the world, and has the distinction of being the only manufacturer in the world able to go forward with pride and conviction in rotary vane technology.
[From Issue 14, Vane Magazine, March 2019]