Lapland has not been spared from the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the impacts of which have been significant on many industries. However, Finns are known around the world as highly educated and happy people who have the ability to innovate. Now is the time for Lapland’s business environment to truly demonstrate its resilience and adaptability.
Finland is known as a stable and secure environment for business operations and investments, remaining resilient in the face of unpredicted changes and crises as well. Spring 2020, Finland implemented rapid changes to its legislation and allocated a generous amount of financial support for companies to carry out situation analysis and development measures in response to the economic impacts of the coronavirus.
Reducing the notification periods of Finland’s lay-off system and the duration of cooperation negotiations provided much-needed flexibility for adapting human resources. For a fixed period, entrepreneurs were also granted the opportunity to receive unemployment security while continuing their business activities, in addition to which companies can postpone taxes and payments during the coronavirus outbreak. Further forms of general support and industry-specific relief measures are still being planned.
The network of operators serving companies in Lapland is well organized and active, as a result of which companies in the region have been quick to make use of the offered forms of support amid this difficult period of change.
“The threshold for utilizing external expert services to survive the situation has been made as low as possible in business development services as well,” says Head of Finance Eija Virtasalo from the ELY Center for Lapland. “In Northern Finland, companies that have been hit hard by the coronavirus have not hesitated to seek support. Companies are now actively seeking new ways of surviving the situation, and the response to the services has been positive.”
Santa Claus’s hometown supports its entrepreneurs
Rovaniemi – the official hometown of Santa Claus and the capital of Lapland – is supporting its entrepreneurs in every way it can amid the coronavirus situation.
“Consultation services have played a major role in this situation; our phones have been ringing non-stop since early March,” says Business Developer Merja Majanen from Business Rovaniemi.
Nearly all Finnish municipalities, including Rovaniemi, are granting EUR 2,000 in operating support to sole entrepreneurs who have lost income due to the coronavirus to cover the costs of running a business. In Rovaniemi, the City Board has also made several decisions to provide support to businesses.
“We can be flexible in regard to the due dates of land rent and grant rent relief under certain conditions. The City and its enterprises are aiming to speed up payments to businesses while also granting longer payment terms when issuing invoices.”
The City of Rovaniemi also aims to advance necessary procurements planned for this year to support the region’s economy.
“The aim is to favor local businesses in regard to procurement insofar as possible according to the Act on Public Procurements and competition legislation. We are also looking into ways of engaging in cooperation with local businesses by maintaining frequent contact with business associations.”
Federation of enterprises are actively organizing various surveys targeted at their members to provide all operators with as clear a picture of the situation in Lapland as possible.
“Many businesses in the tourism, restaurant and transport industries are currently in trouble, but in addition to free-of-charge business service organizations, for example, companies that provide services for the development of business activities or digital services are also keeping busy,” Majanen points out.
Majanen believes that although direct support for cash crises is also needed, many companies that have applied for development support granted by the state will also be able to utilize this time to develop their business.
“The situation has forced businesses to think in new ways, consider new customer groups, develop new operating methods and perhaps even new products.”
Lapland is an ideal location for many types of businesses
At the start of the coronavirus crisis, the President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö reminded citizens to “increase physical distance but decrease emotional distance” from one another. In Lapland, where the population density is less than two persons per square kilometer, people are used to maintaining a sense of community despite the vast distances, using good telecommunications connections.
“In my opinion, Fell Lapland has managed to maintain a positive and good spirit,” assesses regional development organization Fell Lapland Development’s Executive Director Veli-Matti Hettula. “We have organized Coronaexit virtual morning coffee events for companies and provided guidance to entrepreneurs on how to assess the situation and apply for different forms of support.”
The various economic development operators of regional organizations and municipalities have engaged in close cooperation and provided support to companies together. Hettula is confident that the sub-regional unit of Western Lapland will continue to succeed on its own merits after the coronavirus crisis.
“Fell Lapland has the largest fells in Finland, plenty of living space in peaceful and safe villages, international tourist centers and, according to the WHO, the cleanest air in the world. There is plenty of room to breathe here, making it an ideal environment for new projects that benefit from these characteristics.”
For BRP, a company known particularly for its snowmobiles, Lapland is an ideal location for many types of operations.
“We of course have a long history with Rovaiemi, where the Lynx snowmobile factory has stood for several decades, but even though our operations have expanded geographically, Lapland still remains at the heart of our primary market area, close to Sweden, Norway and Russia,” says BRP’s Commercial Director and Site Leader for BRP Finland Valto Ristimella.
From an industrial perspective, the Rovaniemi and Kemi-Tornio areas are of particular interest to investors, but Lapland also makes for an attractive destination for corporate guests.
“Retailers are more than happy to come to Lapland to learn more about our new products. For several years now, we have been organizing product reveal events at Levi, which have attracted hundreds of retailers from dozens of countries around the world.”
According to Ristimella, Lapland’s tourist centers not only have the necessary expertise for organizing international events, but also boast excellent conditions for side events.
“These are challenging times, but we believe that after the most acute phase of the ongoing crisis has passed, Lapland will still be the best environment in the world for sustainable and profitable business.”