How do you measure the economic importance of a city? One widely-accepted metric is a city’s ability to attract global and regional headquarters. Compared to other Nordic countries, Finland is trailing behind, but not for lack of potential. Here are five ways the Amcham community would put Helsinki “on the map” as a magnet for headquarters:
1. Roll out the red carpet for investors.
Everything from quicker visa processing to big strategic approaches to make the investment climate in Finland more attractive are needed to increase FDI. It has been known for some time that, while Finland has year-after-year been ranked as a country with high FDI potential, performance still falls short. Efforts to affect change to ease the process and welcome investment – both big and small – are a step in the right direction.
2. Follow Helsinki Airport’s lead.
Helsinki is the shortest and most direct route when traveling between Europe and Asia. Last year, for the first time ever, Helsinki Airport served more foreign passengers than Finnish ones. Contrary to other transfer hubs in Europe, Helsinki has increased its market share, by more than double over the last ten years. It’s also the least expensive airport in the region, with a turnaround cost 50% lower than the European average. Kari Savolainen, CEO of Finavia, sees Helsinki as an “obvious choice for headquarters. Helsinki is a great place to do business, especially for companies in high-tech sectors and those trying to access the Russian market.”
3. Leverage the twin-city potential of Helsinki and Tallinn.
Helsinki and Tallinn, located only 50 km apart by ferry, are already closely connected. In the last ten years, passenger traffic between Finland and Estonia has increased by 43%, with car traffic increasing by 125%. These two wonderfully different cities, both impressive by their own merits, can create incredible synergies if they were to work better in conjunction. CEO of Tallink Silja Margus Schults insists that in regards to market share, “rather than competing for bigger pieces of the pie, the two cities should work together to increase the size of the pie.”
4. Focus on what Finland’s good at.
Finland can play to its strengths by supporting growth clusters in areas it excels in – the gaming industry, life sciences, and data centers, for example. General Manager at GE Healthcare Finland Matti Lehtonen, when recalling GE’s decision to move to Finland, attributes its success to the “deep knowledge in the medical technology field” that they acquired. “Finland has great talent, and this has been a key factor for our success. Close cooperation with clinical partners has been uniquely positive and has really boosted our operations in Finland from the beginning.”
5. Get big. Think big.
There’s power in numbers. Helsinki needs its regions and neighboring cities to make a bigger impact. Alone, Helsinki has 600 thousand inhabitants, but if you include surrounding cities and suburbs, that number reaches 1.5 million. If we head further south, there’s half a million living in Tallinn. Combined, that’s 2 million people and a significant economic resource.
When forces are combined, more can be achieved. Ultimately, that’s what will lead to a truly global metropolitan area that, in turn, will have the ability to attract high-profile company headquarters.