The revolution of "micro cities": Valmiera sets the pace in Latvia
This content piece is brought to you in collaboration with LIAA (Investment and Development Agency of Latvia).
Developing new ways to economic success, experimenting and daring doesn’t depend on a city’s size! In Valmiera, we seek and promote innovation to achieve our economic goals.
The year 2020 has forced most companies and organizations to think about necessary changes, digitization and new alliances. When choosing the right destination for their gatherings, conferences or congresses, they seek examples that are enriching and can exchange knowledge . A great advantage of holding events outside capital cities is the smaller size of the economic ecosystem, which helps the participants to better understand the underlying dynamics and context, and to use them in their environment.
Valmiera is an outstanding example of a small city that stands out thanks to exemplary economic development and well-considered strategies.
Valmiera, the centre of the northeast region of Vidzeme, is about 120 km from Riga International Airport in Latvia. It’s only 1 hour's drive on the well-developed motorway from the airport. When you arrive, you can observe a smoothly interacting system of key players: cooperation between state and municipal authorities, with universities and companies, targeted networking activities, with support and implementation of new ideas.
For the successful development of business communities, a short distance between research, industry and companies is key for their routines and interaction. This means the exchanging of process and ideas is quick and all the mutual support and commitment from those involved is backed up by a congruent political direction – this result-oriented collaboration is the focus in Valmiera.
These conditions are ideal for new, streamlined forms of conferences - such as a hybrid "phygital" format, which mixes local reality with virtual reach - something which can greatly benefit international investors. A total of 44 “Foreign Direct Investment Companies” (FDI’s) have already settled in Valmiera, making it (according to the FDI magazine of the Financial Times 2019) “the third best micro-city in Europe for their FDI strategy”.
The plan for the city’s future is clearly laid out as is it’s dynamic development as a flourishing, yet livable industrial city. Institutions such as the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LTRK), the city of Valmiera, the Knowledge and Technology centre of Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences, the Entrepreneurship Center of Vidzeme Planning Region and the Valmiera Business Incubator are carrying forward the strategy together. Not a small feat, considering the population of only approximately 25,000!.
Both 60 years of industrial history, and being the location for the headquarters of internationally operating companies such as Valmiera Glass Group or VALPRO Ltd., one of the largest metalworking companies in the Baltic States, also help to shape this clear direction. The city has designated 110 hectares of development area for the relocation of both industrial and non-industrial companies and also offers a wide range of support to them (e.g. up to 90% discount on property tax for investors).
Successful educational concepts are another backbone for ambitious goals. Valmiera is a member of the renowned UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities and is known as the “Talent Magnet City” in Latvia: highly motivated and well-trained young people are likely to stay after completing their studies in the city or region - the quality of life is something highly emphasised in all conversations.
One of the important educational centres is the Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences. André Nitzschmann, Deputy Head of Study Program "Virtual Reality and smart Technologies" sheds light on the academic module in Valmiera’s business ecosystem:
“We as the lecturers appreciate the work at the university here for many reasons: a lot of support is offered when applying for funding, which creates great freedom in the development of new research programs. Both the university as well as the city have an enjoyable personal atmosphere and a close and good cooperation between academic research - institutions - companies and all kinds of organisations. Short distances and processes are easy to manage, and the opportunity to bring together technology and its practical application in companies is there due to the interest and open atmosphere between all partners.
It is not just the start-ups that are innovative here; the companies based in Valmiera and Vidzeme are very fit and open to new ideas. The regional influence on what happens is pronounced, a lively network culture between the university and non-university partners is actively promoted through numerous hackathons and other events to boost the exchange of ideas. Our goal at the university is to integrate existing knowledge and technology into companies as best as possible and to help optimise business processes. An overall very good infrastructure supports these interactions."
The attractiveness of Valmiera lies in the mix of existing professional competence and the quality of the infrastructure, the small & medium-sized companies and their openness to applied new technologies, and the clear orientation of the city towards business development - together with the proximity to a green and untouched surrounding area.
Further advantages include real estate prices, the standard of living, proximity to Estonia and the Russian market, and international connections via Riga.
André Nitzschmann adds: "Companies interested in Valmiera and its strategic economic development will be welcomed with open arms!"
Valmiera also has excellent conference and accommodation facilities for smaller congresses or meetings. The next town, Cesis, is 30 km away and offers space for congresses up to 1200 participants.
LIAA - Investment and Development Agency of Latvia
With the brand “Magnetic Latvia”, the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) works to increase export and competitiveness of Latvian companies, facilitate foreign investment and implement tourism development and innovation policies.
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