The paper describes how the role of network facilitator played by a third party institution may substantially contribute to the development of trust among SMEs involved in a strategic alliance. In our work, empirical evidence is presented by a longitudinal analysis of a case history. The case study focuses on eight international-oriented SMEs located in an industrial district in Northern Italy that built up a formal network called ‘I-Style Partners'. Two rounds of in-depth interviews were carried out with firm leaders and facilitator's managers involved in the strategic alliance over a three-year period. This paper contribute to theory generation suggesting a three-stage process model in which a network facilitator may enhance interorganizational trust by constituting in turn a substitute of alliance members' perceptions of ability, integrity and benevolence.