THERE are thousands of foreign companies active in Finland. These firms are vital for the economy as they make up about a fifth of all sales and account for tens of thousands of jobs. But once they have established a presence in Finland it is important to remind them of what else this country has to offer.
Now a new programme has been developed to help companies evaluate expansion opportunities. Dubbed ROI Finland, the programme is a joint project between the American Chamber of Commerce in Finland (AmCham) and Greater Helsinki Promotion (GHP). It is a free service offered to the American and other foreign corporations that are members of AmCham.
“A lot of countries don’t do a good job taking care of established foreign companies, and we’re one of them,” says Micah Gland, Director of Operations at GHP. “But we’re aiming to change that.”
ROI Finland provides participants with tailored expansion and development support. As an example, a global company may have a sales office in Helsinki. If that company plans to open a new Research & Development centre somewhere in the world, ROI Finland helps make the case for that centre to be located here.
“This really is a pioneering project; it has not been done before,” says Kristina Helenius, Managing Director of AmCham. “It is also very timely. In fact, it is long overdue.”
The programme brings together the strengths of the two organisations. “Our strengths at AmCham are marketing, communicating and advocating,” explains Helenius. “If there are things that need to be changed, we have the tools to talk to decision makers about these issues. GHP has the data, resources and connections. Their strength is making things happen on the business side.”
Prior to the launch of ROI Finland the parties engaged in discussions and surveys with foreign member companies. Matthew Wood, Policy Director at AmCham, points out that the process helped them understand the reasons why international companies were not investing more and to apply those findings to meaningful policy recommendations. Helenius adds that all the participants in the pilot project expressed interest in one way or another.
Finland can offer these companies a variety of reasons for expansion, such as a highly educated workforce, a safe environment, a highly-developed infrastructure, and partnerships with education and research institutions. In addition, Helenius stresses our location.
“No other country can tick off as many boxes as Finland,” Helenius enthuses. “We are in the Nordic region, Baltic region, Eurozone and we share a border with Russia. We are not in a market of 5 million people; we are in the centre of a market of 50 or even 100 million people. We really have a great location and a unique value proposition.”
Helping international companies to expand in Finland can be of great benefit to the wider domestic economy. According to Statistics Finland 69,000 people were employed by foreign affiliates during 2009. Besides the number of employed persons, foreign firms can also increase wages. A paper published by Kristiina Huttunen from the University of Helsinki found that when foreign companies buy Finnish firms wages rose.
“Finland is not as used to international companies as some other countries,” Helenius sums up. “Since this is the case we are really trying hard to attract them. We can meet companies half-way or even more than half-way. We are coming from behind so we are really pushing the envelope. The attitude to succeed is there.”
Text: DAVID J. CORD , Helsinki Times