HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) – This week, representatives in two delegations from Finland will visit Michigan to explore business opportunities within the state. One of the delegations will be hosted by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and will first visit the Houghton-Hancock area on Tuesday, May 17 followed by a visit to Southeast Michigan on May 18 and 19.

Local 3 spoke with two Finnish representatives who will be part of the visit to learn more about what the trip entails. These center around exploring cooperation in research and business in sectors that are common to Finland and Michigan, such as forest bioeconomy, maritime, clean tech, and mobile machinery in the automotive sector.

“We have a close relationship already and in a lot of ways it’ll be, for Finnish businesses want to establish in Michigan, it’s a very natural place,” said Heli Hyypiä, Counselor for Sustainable Growth and Commerce at the Embassy of Finland. “When you look at the whole of the U.S. there is a lot of cultural ties and a lot of long standing business ties in the area as well. So there are landing zones operating there for Finnish actors. It’ll be an easy destination to set up an American home base.”

In the U.P. segment of the trip, business meetings will focus on forest bioeconomy and marine economics.

“They will be meeting with their counterparts in Michigan with whom they have collaborated for more than two years,” said Ulla Lainio, Commercial Counselor at Business Finland, a government organization for innovation funding and trade, travel and investment promotion. “This will be the first meeting for many of us.”

As part of the trip, the delegations will visit Michigan Tech, as well as Finlandia University. The visit builds upon a memorandum of understanding signed in 2020 by Governor Whitmer and Finland’s Minister of Economic Affairs, Mika Lintilä, to increase collaboration and innovation between Michigan and Finland.

“We are very much looking forward to seeing the fantastic facilities, their laboratories there. And then on forest research and wood construction in particular,” Lainio said. “And then we are going to visit Smart Ships Coalition, which is the test bed for autonomous marine vessel testing. This is the area where we are sharing very strong common interests.”

The ultimate goal of the memorandum of understanding is for collaboration to go both ways between Finland and Michigan, with hope for this visit to build connections that could be furthered with Michigan delegations visiting Finland in the near future. Finland’s place at the forefront of forest industry and technology could make for a logical spot for Michigan companies to look to break into the European market.

“Governor Whitmer also has very ambitious goals for the state of Michigan, so we saw that there’s an opportunity there to really come together to promote the green transition and clean technologies,” Hyypiä said. “And like Ulla mentioned there are strengths, definitely both in the sort of sustainable products, forestry, the role of forest in climate change is obviously a very significant one. So there’s a lot that we can do there to exchange information and also eventually trade and new innovative products that come out of the forest. But on the other side also in sort of digital technologies and how we can make our industries less carbon intensive. There’s a lot we can do together.”