The cluster city as a model for success

In this interview, Rikke Lykke, Managing Director, Nordic Region, uses the Danish city of Kolding to propose the idea of B- and C-cities cooperating as a cluster of municipalities in order to attract investment. The Nordic countries are proving an attractive option for investors, and Lykke suggests Kolding follows the lead of cities such as Copenhagen and Stockholm in terms of clustering.

Ms. Lykke, why is Kolding alone not especially attractive for investors?

Kolding lacks a few important features of a metropolitan area – there is neither a major hospital nor a university, for example. The population is rising gradually but slower than in the Nordic region as a whole and all these factors are related. In addition, Kolding is located in an area where many municipalities are competing to become the largest city in the region. If the neighbouring municipality of Vejle, for instance, lures a business away from Kolding, Vejle would celebrate its success while Kolding loses out. 

The idea of a cluster – how could this work for Kolding?

To give you an example, Billund is not far from Kolding, and Billund has Legoland, the LEGO headquarters and an airport. Vejle and Fredericia are also close by, and these are places where people like to live because of the high quality of life. Kolding, meanwhile, has a large shopping centre and is located at the juncture between the north-south motorway to Germany and the east-west motorway to Copenhagen. For me, these four municipalities would be much more attractive as an investment proposition as a cluster, working together to attract businesses. When these four municipalities work together to attract the likes of logistics group DHL, they can even compete with Silkeborg and Aarhus, which are further north. People want to live close to where they work. Also, if you have to go to a meeting in Copenhagen, then you would much rather travel to Copenhagen from this cluster, than have to come all the way from Aarhus.

Should there be a new name for the cluster cities – for example, the Greater Kolding Area?

Greater Stockholm and Greater Copenhagen are clusters using the name of the largest city in the cluster – here, also the capital of the country. In both cases, we’re talking about metropolitan areas plus the surrounding municipalities. Perhaps not everyone is aware of this, but Copenhagen operates as a cluster. The Copenhagen municipality has just 600,000 inhabitants; it is only together with Frederiksberg, Ballerup and a few other municipalities that the Greater Copenhagen area can boast a population of 1.3 million people.

Is it particularly important for a new cluster city to market itself well?

Cooperation is decisive, not just marketing and communications. But all three factors are important.

Have any initial steps been taken in this direction in Kolding?

Not yet. In fact there is competition now concerning rail connections. A high-speed rail line is supposed to be built in Denmark with one stop to be allocated to this area. This stop, wherever it will be, will also connect to Billund Airport which currently does not have a train connection. Every municipality is competing for this train station which, with its connection to Billund Airport, will attract more businesses to the area.

"The Nordic region, along with Germany, is considered a safe haven in Europe."

Rikke Lykke, Manging Director Nordic Region

The Nordic countries are becoming a point of interest for investors. Why now particularly?

Despite the terror attack in Stockholm, the Nordic region, along with Germany, is still considered a safe haven in Europe. The Nordic countries are politically stable and have emerged from the financial crisis in much better shape than many other countries. The employment rate is high. A high level of education, positive demographics and the lack of housing in cities make them ripe for investment. On the other hand, no one knows what effect Brexit will have on the UK market.

Where does the almost mythical appeal of Denmark come from?

It’s no secret. When it comes to global rankings and economic figures, the Nordic countries consistently place in the top five or top ten – especially in the areas of research, development, innovation and elite universities. Besides, there is no corruption here, and the cosmopolitan climate of the society is also reflected in the good English skills of the people who live here, and that’s not something you find in many other countries. These and many other factors make it an easy decision for investors to make the move into Denmark.

Photos: Getty Images