Led by Okko-Pekka Salmimies, Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, two Finnish business delegations visited the Copper Country on Tuesday to advance economic and trade relations and explore partnership opportunities. Finlandia University, the only remaining institution of higher education in the U.S. founded by Finns outside of Finland, hosted the groups for an opening reception at the University’s Finnish American Heritage Center.
“There is a degree of synergy and affinity between Michigan and Finland that would be hard to find outside of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and, more specifically, the Copper Country. This was, in my opinion, on display today at Finlandia’s Finnish American Heritage Center.
“Today we witnessed a strong and shared conviction that the western U.P. has an opportunity to lead with others in imagining and realizing Michigan’s vision for new expressions of collaboration between this great state and Finland,” President Philip Johnson said.
In his opening remarks, Consul General Salmimies shared recognition of the Copper Country’s strong embrace of its Finnish heritage as well as Finland’s interest in expanding relations between the two.
“We’re of course extremely happy representatives of Finnish Government that there is this strong Finnish community, and we are also extremely happy that we share the interest of the constant and developing the Finnish country image,” Salmimies said. “We want to identify possibilities for mutual benefit partnerships and, of course, business opportunities,” he later added.
The delegation’s visit stems from a memo of understanding signed between Finland and Michigan in May 2020 to collaborate on clean technologies. Interested in accelerating the transition to green and sustainable economies, the two delegations spoke at the reception with local companies such as SmartZone and FinnZone to explore opportunities unique to the Copper Country such as ports, logistics, marine autonomy and forest bioeconomy. FinnZone, a commercial launchpad for Finnish tech companies looking to enter and expand into the United States, is co-directed by Kevin Manninen, Dean of Finlandia’s International School of Business.
“Our area’s historic and cultural ties to Finland are well known. However, business cooperation also shows tremendous potential,” Manninen said. “Our FinnZone partnership has brought together all of our region’s major economic development organizations and educational institutes into one team dedicated to exploiting these opportunities. Finlandia University is a key member of the FinnZone team.”
Sponsoring the delegation’s visit is JAMK University of Applied Sciences from Jyväskylä where Manninen taught from 1995 to 2010. JAMK is also one of Finlandia’s key exchange partners.
Manninen added: “We’ve been working with JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyväskylä for a number of years already. Project leader Markku Paananen has visited our area previously with projects in the bioeconomy sector. His partner in this delegation, Marko Luoma, owner of the consulting company Xport, was a Finlandia exchange student back in 2003. Partnerships, like we have with JAMK, are key to the success of our business and economic development initiatives. Through them, we’ve been introduced to a number of companies interested in locating here.”Business Finland, Finland, Finlandia University, Finnish American Heritage Center, Finnish American Historical, JAMK, JAMK University, Kevin Manninen, Philip Johnson, Team Finland Business Delegation