The Finnish business community already has a foothold in the Lone Star State through companies like telecom giant Nokia and renewable diesel supplier Neste. Now it’s looking to strengthen its ties to the Texas economy.
For the past week, a delegation of business leaders from the Nordic country, led by Finnish Ambassador to the U.S. Mikko Hautala, have been touring the state to talk economic cooperation and new technologies. They kicked things off with a first stop in North Texas.
“The purpose is to really open a new page in the business relations between Finland and Texas,” Hautala told Dallas Innovates. “We would really like to see a new level for our relationship.”
Touring the Texas Triangle
The week-long trip, which is focused on the “Texas Triangle,” began over the weekend with the launch of an inaugural Finnair flight between DFW Airport and Helsinki, Finland, carrying around 200 passengers and 16 tons of cargo. The newly opened direct connection between the cities is set to run four times per week. Hautala said the move will help bring the countries closer together as the delegation looks to strengthen the relationship.
The delegation, which met with Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, made stops at the BNSF Intermodal Rail Facility and the Mobility Innovation Zone at AllianceTexas in Fort Worth. Discussions focused on potential partnerships and use cases for connectivity technology being developed in Finland by companies like Nokia for businesses in the U.S. The stops, including one at Nokia North America, highlighted the benefits of strengthening supply chain ties between the two countries.
From there, the tour is making stops in Houston and Austin. The visit to the Bayou City will focus on renewable energy, maritime, and port logistics technology. The visit to Austin will include a stop at Capital Factory and will focus on emerging tech and smart city applications. Overall, Hautala said the purpose of the trip is create a more open relationship between Texas and Finland to foster new business leads and potential new collaboration.
“In Europe, when people look at the U.S., they remember New York, Washington, D.C., Silicon Valley, and places like that,” Hautala said. “For us, the key message to Finnish companies and travelers is that there’s also the U.S. South, and Texas is the center of that. You have a bigger GDP than Brazil.”
Pitching Texas business
The delegation is part of an initiative by Business Finland, an organization of the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy aimed at attracting trade, tourism, and investments to the country, in addition to funding innovation.
Dallas Innovates had a few minutes to catch up with Hautala before the delegation left North Texas on Tuesday. Here’s part of our conversation:
What’s your pitch to U.S. companies as to why they should be looking to Finland?
Finland is a high-tech country, and we have a really good corresponding structure of the economy. To give an example, Microsoft, just last week, announced a major investment in Finland, which is expected to bring $16.5 billion of revenue in the next four years and it’s going to create 11,000 jobs. Finland is a great hub for business. You have the best possible infrastructure. You have the best possible workforce. It’s also, by the way, the happiest country on earth for five times in a row.
What do you hope to gain from this trip to take back with you?
What we hope to get is to have a real connection and collaboration, with both the state-level administration and local administrations’ commitment to working together. Of course, we hope that our companies will have good business leads, which they can follow up later on. I also hope to make a lot of noise for this Finnair direct connection. It opens a part of the world for Texans. I really hope to be part of that integration process.
How does the current political landscape play into the timing of the trip?
We had Texas in our minds already. More than a year ago, it was part of the plan. The latest situation, I will simply say shows that the Russian market is basically gone. There’s a lot of need to find new markets. Of course, the U.S. is rather obvious for that, because it’s already the most important market for the Finish businesses, and it’s growing fast. Within the U.S., I think it’s Texas that is growing even faster than many other places. So I can’t think of any better place to be.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Get on the list.
Dallas Innovates, every day.
Sign up to keep your eye on what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, every day.