Saimaa network features expertise for the needs of large corporations

The two sites of the Saimaa Data Park are all located close to each other in the center of the Varkaus and Joroinen technology hub. The area has more than 200 years of industrial heritage from which to draw, through to active cooperation also today. An international operator looking into the area is, in fact, welcomed by an extensive cooperation network of companies, operating in the field of energy technology in particular. 

“We have a working and comprehensive infrastructure, a skilled workforce and long heritage, and we are committed to work and the future. By pulling together, we have created a field of operations that even caters to international needs, and many international businesses have already located in the area,” says Jouko Laitinen, Managing Director of Navitas Development Ltd., the company in charge of the Saimaa Data Park. 

“The area’s engineering expertise in the recovery and storage of energy, among other things, is among the best in Finland. Another important strength of our network is the subcontracting chain and short distances between operators. Maintenance services are available nearby at a short notice. In addition, there is an energy engineering pilot plant in Varkaus”, Laitinen says. 

Large corporations’ investments are an indication of strong trust in the area

The hub comprised of Varkaus and Joroinen is the driver of the technology industry of Eastern Finland, with the exports of the area increasing to EUR 748 million in 2020. Both the export figures and the 3,000 technology jobs in the area are indications of strong expertise. “This, in part, provides large corporations with an opportunity for optimizing their operations in every phase of the supply chain,” Jouko Laitinen says. Several large companies are, in fact, investing in their operations in the area. 

“Keski-Savon Teollisuuskylä Oy has played an important role in facilitating the investments, having built premises for companies. The City of Varkaus has also provided support in becoming established in the area. The city and cooperation between different parties will ensure that the industrial heritage of the Varkaus region will continue for another 200 years,” says Katja Niiranen, Business Advisor at Navitas Development Ltd. 

One of the large corporations that have recently made additional investments in Varkaus is ANDRITZ, a company listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange. Its subsidiary ANDRITZ Warkaus Works Oy chose to locate its new plant in Varkaus. “The trust of large companies in the area is an indication that we are doing well. This, in turns, creates a spirit of teamwork –the Varkaus spirit,” Niiranen says.

The area’s strength is in cooperation between technology industry businesses 

“There are lots of industrial SMEs in the Varkaus area. In particular, there are lots of small energy technology businesses, in addition to which there are large global companies,” Niiranen says. According to him, everything that is needed can be found in the network operating in the area. The SMEs engage in subcontracting and mechanical engineering, with large companies employing them as service partners in maintenance and installation work, for instance. The cooperation between the area’s education network, the City of Varkaus and Navitas Business Services aims to attract skilled labor to the area in the future as well.

“We encourage businesses to openness, partnership and cooperation to the maximum extent. An example of the development of cooperation is Energy Cluster North Savo, established last summer. The partners in this cluster that is visible even at the EU level include energy sector companies, Navitas Business Services, Savonia University of Applied Sciences and the University of Eastern Finland,” Niiranen describes the efforts to increase cooperation in the area.

Increasing awareness through cluster cooperation and pulling together 

“Started as a project effort, the Energy Cluster North Savo is now continuing as an independent body. We are having a good uplift here,” says Marko Luokkanen, Vice President, ANDRITZ Oy, who chaired the cluster’s steering group in the establishment phase. One of the purposes of the cluster cooperation is to increase awareness of the business hub in the area. 

Energy Cluster North Savo is comprised of a few globally operating large companies and several small and medium-sized enterprises operating as subcontractors, for example. “We have a highly international modern high-technology business cluster focusing on the energy, pulp, paper and board industries. Even globally, we stand out as a very exceptional city, because no other place has such a significant business cluster in this area, especially in the export industry,” Luokkanen sums up.

The energy cluster cooperation strengthens the area’s already strong spirit and aims to make the cooperation more coordinated and growth-oriented. Pulling together brings visibility and ensures the availability of future talent to all parties in the area in the future as well. “Here, we have a very low threshold of networking and new businesses are welcomed with open arms,” Luokkanen says. A new operator would be a great match to the area’s businesses, as the possible data center operator’s IT expertise would benefit the area’s existing businesses and possibly also give rise to new innovation. There is an increasing need for this kind of expertise according to Luokkanen, and the new operator establishing a presence in the area would benefit all of the parties. 

The network is ready to welcome a new operator

The area’s cooperation network is ready to welcome a new data center operator to join its ranks. How this will happen in practice depends on the needs of the newcomer according to Business Advisor Niiranen. “As the coordinating party, we at Navitas have the management responsibility, and we are cooperating with all key players. The Cities of Varkaus and Joroinen are strongly involved in the process, as are businesses, educational institutions and TE Services, the government body responsible for labor. We will welcome you with happy and very open minds!”

“This is a good place for the potential data center operator to come to. Varkaus is a city of a suitable size, and we offer everything that is needed. The basic services are in order, and our job self-sufficiency rate is very good. For businesses, there is a lot of sector-related expertise and talent in the networks here,” Niiranen says, encouraging parties considering establishing a presence in the area. Luokkanen agrees with Niiranen.

“Varkaus is in the middle of everything, and the distances to the nearby cities are short. The capital, Helsinki, is about three hours away by car or train. Even though it sometimes feels like it takes a couple of hours more to reach international destinations than from the Helsinki region, I think that it is a small investment considering how efficient day-to-day life is here. More time is available for leisure while working in international business.”