Ladies and gentlemen, friends of the boat and marine industry,
I would like to start by once again, on behalf of the Finnish government, welcoming you to Jakobstad! We have had a great day this far, and we still have a wonderful evening ahead of us.
I have personally always loved spending time by the sea. The sea gives me energy, clarity and calmness. I cannot think of a better feeling than coming home to Jakobstad after a long week of work in Helsinki, driving out to the sea, getting on my boat and going to my second home, my summerhouse in the archipelago. Boating, the sea, and marine life has always been important to me. I am sure that many of you here today also share a close relationship to the sea.
I think that this closeness to the sea is one of the main reasons why the boat and marine industry is so successful here in this region. We have always had to rely on the water to get our goods and trades out to both the world and the rest of Finland. Jakobstad actually became a part of mainland Finland as late as the 1500’s. Before that, parts of Jakobstad were situated below water, which can sound strange but is due to the ice age and landmasses rising. As the land rose, more and more of Jakobstad emerged from the sea. The very first shipyard in Jakobstad was founded in 1666. One hundred years later Jakobstad was the biggest manufacturer of boats in all of Finland. And in 1782, the ship “Concordia” sailed from Jakobstad to what we then knew as the East Indies. This was the first ship from Finland to sail to those parts of the world. A ship that has inspired many, among others the very organisers of this event – the region’s development company Concordia.
There are also other examples of great sea farers from Jakobstad, as we were – and I think still are – quite a brave and adventurous people. In the 1840’s the ship “Hercules” from Jakobstad became the first Finnish ship to sail around the world. Hercules was one of the many ships that belonged to the fleet of Peter Malm, one of the most successful businessmen and ship owners of his time. Many of these ships sailed to foreign harbours in pursuit of things that were difficult to buy in Finland at the time, such as coffee, coal, salt and cotton.
I believe that this rich history is one of the reasons why the boat and marine industry is so important to us in the Jakobstad-Pietarsaari region, even if our region looks a lot different today than it did back then. Today we are a region with not only our own harbour, but also our own airport and train station. These connections to both other parts of Finland as well as to other parts of the world offer ideal conditions for entrepreneurship and companies. Today we have over 6 000 companies in the Jakobstad-Pietarsaari region. We are not only famous for our boatyards but also for our paper, plastic, metal and food industries. We have many bigger companies, such as Mirka, Snellman, Rani Plast and Fresh Servant. We also have a lot of small and medium enterprises, many of them subcontractors, which are very important to keep the wheels turning.
Even though many things have changed in the region during the centuries, we are still the largest boat manufacturers in Finland and we are still able to compete with manufacturers globally. This is due to the knowledge that we have in this region, passed down from generation to generation. The art and tradition of boat building has therefore continued with great success. It is also due to the quality of the boats that are made here, which are famous around the world. Both Baltic Yachts and Nautor’s Swan create high quality boats that are internationally appreciated. These two companies, together with their subcontractors, have more than one thousand employees in the region within the industry. Even though our region and our country is small, our knowledge and experience is enormous. I think it is safe to say that we make some of the best sailboats in the entire world in this region.
Boats are popular among the Finnish people, and many Finns do buy their boats from this region, but the majority of our boats are exported. Over two thirds of all boats built in this region are exported to many different parts of the world. Almost all companies in Finland need export, but what makes our region’s boat and marine industries unique is the quantities. The fact that such a big majority of our boats are exported makes our boat manufacturers true competitors on the global market. This is also the very reason why the region’s boat and marine industry is so important not only to the region but to the country as a whole.
As a small country, Finland relies on exporting trades and products. For a thriving economy, we need a thriving export industry. For us in the Finnish government it is essential to create a good working environment for our companies so that they can grow and prosper. Companies need a fair taxation and a knowledgeable work force. Many companies in our region now suffer from a lack of labour, and this is why we need to make it easier for companies themselves to decide – who is the right person for this job. The worker’s nationality shouldn’t make a difference. This is why labour market testing should be made easier for companies.
With these words, I would like to once again thank you all for being here today to celebrate this Boat Industry Export Day. And thank you to Concordia, Nautor’s Swan and Baltic Yachts for the wonderful arrangements! It has been an honour to be here with you today, I hope you all enjoy the rest of your evening!