Interview with Mayor Jorma Rasinmäki of Seinäjoki
New European Economy-What is the economic outlook in your region in terms of investment for the coming year and how does it contrast with the previous 12 months?
Mayor Jorma Rasinmäki The biggest investments have been and continue to be in the construction, technology, logistics and trade & services industries.
Industrial sites/plot sales have tripled during the past 24 months compared to the 20 previous years. The same growth speed continued in the year 2011. This has meant huge investments for the private construction industry. I am pleased to see plenty of my favorite birds in the horizon – namely tower cranes. Big public investments started in 2009 that have positive influence on our development and keep us on the growth track even in the future. Also private investment in residential construction in Seinäjoki is at peak level in whole Finland.
In the other mentioned growth sectors the views are equally as optimistic and bright as in construction industry. The sectors have experienced significant growth and investments in these sectors are hugely increasing in 2011. The trade sector is also growing fast and for example in car sales, Seinäjoki attracts customers from across the country. In addition to existing large trading units, shopping centres and specialist shops, companies are currently investing in tens of thousands of square metres of new shopping space in Seinäjoki and will continue to do so in the near future as well.
Which sectors have experienced the biggest growth, and which sectors should investors keep an eye on?
The above described sectors have experienced the biggest growth. Our strong and growing areas are food production, technology and intelligent machinery industries, trade, sports technology and culture and experience production, especially know-how in rhythm music.
Strongest line of business is food industry. South Ostrobothnia is the food production province in Finland. We produce food to satisfy the demand in the whole country. We are strongly representing the whole food production chain from initial production to refinery, machine construction, trade and university level research.
Metal industry is also a strong and wide line of business. Adding intelligent technology into machinery and equipment raises the refinery level of the products and increases competitiveness of sector.
Potential opportunities in the region for both Finnish and foreign investors are provided by the food industry as well as the constantly developing infrastructure and trade sectors. Excellent investment opportunities are offered in the form of shopping centres under construction as well as the constant premise expansion projects of large companies. Seinäjoki is top of the class in housing production as well, so there are plenty of investment opportunities to choose from.
What does Finland have to offer in terms of its workforce and human resources? And how does this compare with other countries in the region?
Finland’s workforce is highly educated and computer literate. The knowledge transfer between business and universities has been one of the key factors in Finland’s track record of innovation and economic success.
According to WEF’s Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011, Finland has the best availability of scientists and engineers in the world and they are trained by one of the best educational system in the world. The workforce also includes a large number of other professionals with university degrees in diverse fields. However, labor costs are lower in Finland compared to the other Nordic countries.
Finland’s education system has consistently achieved outstanding results. WEF’s Global Competitiveness Index ranks the quality of the system as the best in the world. In OECD’s Programme for Student Assessment (PISA) surveys Finnish students lead the rankings in combined learning results for science, mathematics and literacy. About a third of Finland’s working population has a degree or higher qualification.
-Finns combine a powerful work ethic with a love for learning and technology.
-Best availability of scientists and engineers trained by the best quality educational system in the world
-Lower wages than in the other Nordic countries
Nordic countries are renowned for taking care of their environment and their people; how does Finland compare with other countries its region for its quality of life?
Although Finland is a small country of 5.3 million people, we have consistently ranked very well in many of the world’s best-of charts. In August 2010, Newsweek declared that Finland is the best country in the world. They based their conclusion on five criteria: health, economic dynamism, education, political environment and quality of life.
Finland has a high standard of living and one of the world’s best functioning welfare systems. Education and healthcare are virtually free and equality is not just a buzzword: Finland’s president (Tarja Halonen) and Prime Minister (Mari Kiviniemi) are women, and women ministers outnumber men in government, making Finland the most female-dominated government in the world.
One concrete factor worth mentioning increasing the quality of life is the fact that babies are well taken care of. Infant mortatality rate is one of the lowest in the world according to the World Health Organization. Paid maternity and paternity leaves are standard benefits, and organized childcare is largely paid for by the state. This enables women to participate effectively in the working life.
The quality of life is at top level in Seinäjoki. The cluster of the welfare and service sectors plays a strong role as a generator of jobs, which has a positive impact on the quality of life. Welfare services are arranged on cost-effective and quality manner, crossing municipal and sector boundaries, and serving citizens on an equal footing. Seinäjoki offers a combination of diverse living opportunities, high-quality services and abundant cultural and leisure activities.
Seinäjoki residents and visitors enjoy a superb quality of life with doorstep access to vibrant and active way of living. A beautiful natural environment lies within easy reach of the city centre and there’s an abundance of places to explore and outdoor activities to enjoy. Seinäjoki region offers versatile housing opportunities in modern apartments in the heart of the city or in peaceful detached houses close to nature. Broad education opportunities as well as high level of services including excellent daycare and healthcare services combine well in Seinäjoki region.
We also have events for all tastes – from rock and tango festivals to motorsport racing events. Hundreds of events are organized in the region annually attracting, serving and entertaining people from all around Finland, not to forget international visitors. Seinäjoki fosters creative individuals with big dreams, who make something big and beautiful out of something small. Seinäjoki is the home city of the totally crazy “The Dudesons” who are closely followed also in the USA, England, France, Germany, Australia, Italy and South Korea.
Seinäoki is currently the fastest growing city in Finland which is very positive in regards to growth opportunities. What measures has the City of Seinäjoki taken to encourage such success?
This development stems from population growth, diversification and strengthening of industrial and commercial activity and, above all, flourishing business. The region has entered a growth path through cooperation between its municipalities and cities, as well as between different interest groups. The consolidation of several surrounding municipalities around Seinäjoki in 2009 also served to fortify the market position of Seinäjoki.
Public and private construction is at high level. This has been encouraged through wise residential and industrial city planning and by keeping the price level at reasonable standards.
It is the entrepreneurs that hold the keys for our economic growth and flourishing business culture. Our common will and spirit of entrepreneurship have made the Seinäjoki region one of Finland’s top players in terms of gross domestic product, employment rate and population growth. For example, the increase in jobs has been over twice the national average, and population growth has been the quickest among medium-sized and large Finnish cities. These interesting values, habitability and competitiveness are some of the major reasons why Seinäjoki attracts more inhabitants and why people as well as companies want to choose Seinäjoki region as their living and operational environment. The city has encourages nurturing of these unique values by offering fast and flexible decision making that has been reflected into making it easier for entrepreneurs to realize their innovations, business ideas and investments that have a boosting effect on the economic growth.
The coming decades will require entrepreneurial qualities and sustainable approach to business life to move the economy on. The city has encouraged the entrepreneurial spirit in the region through an entrepreneurial approach in many levels of society. For example, the city has organized entrepreneurial competitions for secondary school students and wants to ensure this way that young minds will start seeing and generating business opportunities already at an early stage and later on become successful entrepreneurs with innovative and creative business ideas.
We have also put huge efforts into a national marketing campaign branded under KOMIA brand. The message of KOMIA marketing is captured in one word: WILL (tahto in Finnish). The word WILL captures the essence of the Seinäjoki region. We have the will to succeed, to gather our strength and to act together. The campaign is about influence, the skill to be heard and followed and to create new ideas.
The marketing campaign has among other things strengthened the image of Seinäjoki as an attractive city, national traffic and logistic centre, place where it happens and an enjoyable city with high quality of life. The increase in the amount of traffic in the area is one of the greatest in the country. Higher capacity in passenger and freight traffic and faster connections make the provincial centre more accessible. A long term vision, wise decisions and fearless spirit to dream big have made Seinäjoki, the former backwater, to rank constantly high in recent studies and to attract most domestic migration in Finland.
Like Lord Heseltine says: “ It’s how you respond to set backs that really marks you out”. We have a unique determination in our approach to make things succeed. Financial fluctuations have not undermined our economy – we have remained on the growth track even during the recession. Seinäjoki is the driving force behind the increasing vitality and skill level in the entire county of South Ostrobothia. In the Seinäjoki region, actions speak louder than words!
Frami Ltd, a regional development agency, has an excellent reputation for providing a “One Stop Shop” to multinationals with interest in the Seinäjoki region. What would you say are the major services you provide to those looking to work in the region?
Becoming more international is a key to success. Therefore, we are welcoming foreign companies and investors to set up a business in our region of will. We have an environment that offers rich ground for your business to grow and succeed.
We have established a team to help ensure the foreign companies’ move to the city as smooth and successful as possible. Working with a range of partners, we can bring together exactly the right people, at the right time. Our “One Stop Shop” offers the following Softlanding programme, a versatile package of service products, but we can also tailor a service just for your needs:
- Market information
- General information about the region
- Acquaintance offer: Free rent for up to several months
- Information about available office and business space
- Recruitment services
- Information about available employees
- B-2-B partner search
- Network building
- Innovation transfer and business idea evaluation
- Matching services
Market Mapping Package
- Market research
- Business opportunity analyses
- Local publicity
- Client appointments
- Financial advice
- Funding advice
Company Acquisition Package
- Information about companies on sale
- Matchmaking service
- Business incubation services
- Business development process
- A turnkey relocation to Seinäjoki
- Individually tailored services or combination of above packages