Hanaholmen Future Forum: Nordic opportunities in the US Market

Insights|April 19, 2024

At the recent Hanaholmen Future Forum, Mikko Alkio, partner at Roschier, participated in a pivotal panel discussion on the opportunities for Nordic companies in the expansive US market. The discussion, sparked by a keynote from Helen Mets, CEO of Ahlstrom, emphasized the potential and strategic importance of the US market for Nordic enterprises.

“You can’t ignore it; the opportunities are huge, and the growth is there. We in the Nordics have a great reputation in the US; they trust us. It’s getting stronger. We are known for being a reliable partner to work with,” Helen Mets said. She also noted that Sweden, Denmark, and Finland are significant contributors to foreign direct investments in the US, illustrating their robust presence.

The discussion also delved into the differences in business environments between the US and the EU. Mets stressed the benefits of the US’s strong intellectual property protections and its embrace of cultural diversity. “Mastering the transatlantic business is crucial. The legal and regulatory environment in the US is much more closely integrated with business, unlike the EU, which operates under frameworks that aim to get everyone to act at the same time and in the same way, which makes us slow.”

Sustainability was another focal point, with Mets saying that while it guides EU policies, it is just one of many considerations in the US, albeit at a different speed. “They act, while we deliberate,” she said.

The panel included diverse perspectives, with Aaron Brickman of the US Program at RMI discussing the transformative impact of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). “The IRA has changed everything, creating the most attractive market in the world,” Brickman said. He highlighted the flurry of investments into sustainable initiatives and technologies in the US, contrasting this with the more conservative, regulation-driven approach in Europe and the Nordics.

Mikko Alkio emphasized the necessity for Nordic companies to explore westward expansions, citing political shifts and the proactive efforts of the Danish government in the US. “We have no option but to go west. As you know, the east is no longer an option,” Alkio said, referencing the strategic deployment of Danish resources in the US.

Participants also discussed the need for Nordic companies to tailor their strategies specifically to the US market. “Collaboration is the name of the game; find your local partners and remember that your market entry needs to be US specific,” Brickman said.

The panel finished with Mets encouraging Nordic companies to assertively engage with the US market: “Be there–be loud!” Followed by Alkio stressing the importance of utilizing the best external advice for navigating the complex US landscape.

The forum, moderated by Krista Korelin, offered valuable insights into leveraging the strengths of Nordic innovation and sustainability ethos in the promising but challenging US market, laying a road map for future engagement and success.

Future Forum is Hanaholmen’s flagship event and the largest annual business conference that discusses important business issues affecting companies in the Nordic and Baltic countries now and in the future. Hanaholmen Future Forum has been organized since 2010 in various forms. The theme of the 2024 conference was Unleashing Nordic Competitiveness.