While Rome is Italy's political capital, Milan is the country's economic and financial heart. With a 2008 GDP estimated at €136 billion, the urban region of Milan contributes almost 9 percent of the national GDP and is home to over 45 percent of businesses in the Lombard region and more than 8 percent of all businesses in Italy. Milan is home to most international banks and the country's principal stock exchange. It has also seen a rapid increase in internet companies with both domestic and international companies such as Altavista, Google, Lycos, Virgilio and Yahoo! establishing their Italian operations in Milan. The city is, of course, famous for its fashion houses, with names such as Armani, Versace and Valentino, and these have attracted numerous media and advertising agencies. Milan is also home to a large number of telecommunication companies including both the state owned television companies and private media companies like Mediaset and Sky Italia. Milan also an important manufacturing center, especially for the automotive industry, with companies such as Alfa Romeo and Pirelli having a significant presence in the city. Other important products made in Milan include chemicals, machinery, pharmaceuticals and plastics. The city was included in a list of ten "Alpha world cities" by Peter J. Taylor and Robert E. Lang of the Brookings Institution.
As early as the late 12th century, the arts flourished and the making of armours was the most important industry in Milan. This period saw the beginning of those irrigation works that still render the Lombard plain a fertile garden. The development of the wool trade in 13th–14th century, subsequently gave the first impetus to the production of silk starting in the 15th century. As in Venice and Florence, the making of luxury goods was an industry of such importance that in the 16th century the city gave its name to the English word “milaner” or “millaner”, meaning fine wares like jewellery, cloth,