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Michigan: A Welcoming Location Offering New Opportunities for Business with Finland

FinnZone, a soft landing and commercialization launchpad helping Finnish companies locate in Michigan and access U.S. markets is pleased to announce a Finnish delegation visit to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan, attendance at a Finnish delegation in Southeast Michigan, the launch of a pilot project with a Finnish startup and the exploration of a new investment fund aimed at supporting Finnish companies in Michigan.

In late spring or early summer of this year, FinnZone will be hosting a delegation in the U.P. of up to seven small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from Finland, in association with JAMK Institute of Bioeconomy and sponsored by Business Finland. The companies represent sectors such as med-tech, mobility, and advanced wood products. Finnish partners Marko Luoma of XPort and Markku Paananen of JAMK have helped lead this opportunity from Finland. Some of these companies plan to evaluate the opportunity to establish a presence in the Houghton-Hancock region of the U.P., while others are seeking to explore partnerships and distribution channels as a means of accessing the U.S. markets.

Additionally, Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) will be hosting a delegation visit by Finland to Southeast Michigan March 4-6 to explore initial areas of cooperation in batteries, smart mobility, and maritime sectors. The Finnish delegation will be led by Mr. Mika Lintilä, Minister of Economic Affairs and Team Finland, with participation of government leaders, academic researchers and industry. From the U.P., FinnZone, Michigan Technological University and Jim Kurtti, Honorary Consul of Finland have also been invited and will join the event.

“Michigan, particularly the U.P. has so many Finnish-Americans, similar climates, forest resources, complementary industry and tech sectors, and environmental priorities that it just makes sense. The U.P. has always been connected with Finland through our shared heritage and values, but now that relationship is deepening and even expanding across the entire State of Michigan,” says Patrick Visser, founder and co-director of FinnZone, whose mother is of Finnish descent.

FinnZone recently acquired a new client, Mesensei– a Finnish-based software company, led by Tuukka Ylälahti, CEO. FinnZone will help with a pilot project in the U.P, the first for Mesensei in the U.S. for its new “Community Design” technology product, which looks into how a community should be structured to increase the value of participation for its members and the impact of the community as a whole.

Finally, FinnZone and Michigan Capital Network are exploring the possibility of a $10 million (U.S.) investment fund to invest in U.P. technology companies and Finnish SME’s willing to establish a subsidiary in Michigan. Investments in Finnish companies would focus on the ‘Series A’ capital needed to expand into the U.S. “This is what the Finns have told us they need, and if a fund were combined with FinnZone commercialization services, it would make the U.P. and other areas of Michigan very attractive. We are also looking at regulations to see if the fund could include investors from Finland, which is preferable” says Visser.

Overall, 2020 is expected to be an exciting year for Finland and Michigan collaborations. “We can only imagine the opportunities that will develop from all of these activities”, says Visser and FinnZone co-director, Kevin Manninen who worked in Jyväskylä, Finland for fifteen years before returning to the U.P.

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