Finland – Brimming with confidence; filled with conviction
Finland is back on the map – it’s official. But the place isn’t just getting noticed – it’s gone seismic…
Foreign visitors are up by 10%, the capital Helsinki has just been voted the world’s best place to live by an influential British magazine, and the region’s business property market is booming. With positivity across the board, it’s no wonder that Finnish consumers have responded to a recent survey by expressing resounding confidence in the economy.
Good public services, low crime, longer opening hours and local and international opportunities influenced Monocle’s decision to name Finland’s capital city the world’s best city. According to Tyler Brûlé, Monocle’s editor-in-chief, Helsinki is known for its good healthcare, public transport and education. Longer opening hours for shops and services also brought extra points for Helsinki in this year’s Liveable Cities Index.
But beyond the lifestyle choices and frivolity, a succession of positive economic vibrations are sparking Finland back into life. In fact, Finland’s economy grew faster than expected in the first three months of this year, growing at an annual rate of 5.5% on the back of inward investment. What’s more, much of this renewed opportunity is actually focused outside the capital city…
The frontline of this boom are the ports of Kotka and Hamina – aka HaminaKotka – located less than an hour east of Helsinki where the EU effectively borders with Russia. The region is surrounded by the Baltic Sea and the Eastern border – consequently, its one of Northern Europe’s most important import/export and communications hubs.
In fact, Finnish exports leapt by a third in Q1 compared to the same period a year ago, though this is a better indication of how civil unrest has calming since the previous year’s figures feature a fortnight when a strike closed Finnish ports for more than two weeks, blocking 90% of sales abroad. By volume, however, exports were up by 16% on last year, according to Statistics Finland.
The regional development company here, Cursor Oy, is dedicated to strengthening the that growth and building upon it for wider business interests – logistics, metal, and forestry, and renewable energy form the region’s core o business structure. They are the first point of contact for any investor needing detailed intelligence on the region’s opportunities.
Cursor manages several international projects especially related to Russian business. We have excellent contacts to companies and city administration in St. Petersburg via the economic representation of the City of St. Petersburg in Kotka.
In stark contrast to many ailing EU nations, Finland’s retail trade continues on a strong growth path during the first quarter, with car sales up by a third from one year ago. Unlike their British counterparts, Finnish consumers have consistently expressed strong confidence in the development of the country’s economy and in their own financial situation since the middle of last year.
In April 2011 the consumer confidence barometer compiled by Statistics Finland stood at 22.7 for the Helsinki region and 17.8 for the country as a whole. Seinäjoki is a perfect example of that confidence.
Located around 70km inland from Finland’s west coast, Seinäjoki is Finland’s sixth largest commercial centre and with a population of 200,000 and around 8,500 businesses operating in the region. One of Finland’s fastest-growing urban areas, the city has and continues to invest heavily in technology skills as well as food industry research and development.
Seinäjoki’s regional development company Frami Ltd are dedicated to strengthening the region supporting new and existing technology companies. They are the first port of call for investors needing development services and facility services.
“The competitiveness of the Seinäjoki urban region has grown at a staggering rate,” says Seinäjoki-based investor Raimo Sarajärv. He sees no reason why the city’s growth won’t continue: “The current recession hasn’t caused any substantial increase in the amount of empty commercial premises. New companies and chains are coming into the area all the time.”
Seinäjoki is now Finland’s FDI poster town in terms of gross domestic product, employment rate and population growth. Employment opportunities have grown at twice the national average, accelerated by Seinäjoki’s excellent transport links by air, road, and rail.
Juha Alarinta, Research Director of the Seinäjoki University Consortium, explains how the regional economy has altered in this part of Finland: “Seinäjoki was able to rise from the backwoods to the forefront of the information society, thanks to a lot of enthusiastic people working together to make a difference.
Private, public and university funding for research is first-rate. All the leading local companies and municipalities are funding research fellowships – this makes it possible for us to provide information services on a scale normally unattainable for a city this size.”
Then there’s Turku, the medieval city on Finland’s southwest coast – designated as the European Capital of Culture for 2011. In fact, the city was the de facto capital of Finland for centuries, due to its size and economic and administrative status. After ceding power to Helsinki in 1812, Turku got on with what it does best – creating wealth and opportunity.
Today the business district in the city’s economy is centred around the Port of Turku and several other buzzing service industries. Turku has become a high-tech hotspot
With the Science Park area in Kupittaa hosting over 300 companies from the fields of biotechnology and information technology. Education is also one of the city’s fortes with the University and other learning institutions working in closely with the business sector.
Heading north along the coast beyond Seinäjoki lies the port of Oulo, the most populous city in Northern Finland and one of the world’s largest northerly settlements. The Finnish communications company Nokia are one of the city’s biggest employers, with the local University (Finland’s second largest) following closely behind. This should give some indication of where Oulo’s loyalty lies…
The city is recognized worldwide as one of the most important and most fascinating new technology clusters in the wireless technology world. Oulo has a growing reputation for its knowledge-based economy built on outstanding university-based research, an entrepreneurial culture, a broad array of support services and a rich pool of intellectual talent and leadership.
And just like the capital, Helsinki, the Oulu region and its enterprises owes much of it’s success to the people here who’re committed to their work and making their cities better places to live.