Transformation Smøla is a success story in the field of energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable tourism, and sustainable transport and focuses on policy change, funding instruments, and methods.
Background “The Transformation of Smøla”
By the year 2000, the island community of Smøla had seen a decrease in the population over the last few year by a staggering 20%. The main reason for this decrease was that young people moved away to study, and did not return. Additionally, the largest company in the municipality had closed, and more than 35 workplaces disappeared overnight. More companies were struggling at the time, and an additional 100 people were in danger of losing their jobs. The decrease in population had particularly led to a lack of women, and a skewed age distribution in the municipality.
It was vital for the local businesses to mobilize in order to attract the needed skills and competences in order to survive. The local authorities, together with the business community, decided to develop the project “Transformation Smøla”. Møre & Romsdal County Authority and Innovation Norway financed the project, which aimed at creating 50 new jobs, preventing depopulation, and making the municipality more attractive for young workers and entrepreneurs.
- Important targets were:
- Facilitation for creation of new businesses
- Recruiting and competence building
- Important business areas were:
- Renewable energy (with a focus on wind power)
- Tourism and culture
- Fisheries and aquaculture
- Agriculture and food production
The focus on wind energy was in many ways a catalyst for the development in the local business community on Smøla. The construction of wind parks led to increased activity, and consequently increased profitability amongst the local businesses. A network of local, regional, and national high competence businesses in the industry was developed, and this led to increased capital to finance further investments.
As a result of the project, several new companies related to the tourism industry were created. The businesses ranged from accommodation providers and restaurants, to providers of cultural and historical experiences. The municipality also saw an increase in the sales of locally produced products. Many of the businesses started cooperating and sharing the market to a larger degree, in order to survive throughout both the high- and low seasons.
After the official end of the project in 2007, the local authorities continued to make new and transformational decisions. This resulted in a stronger cooperation between the local business community and the local and regional authorities. Cooperation between the arts and culture community, the local businesses, and voluntary efforts was especially important.
In the period between 2008 and 2018, the municipality experienced a further increase in employment, with the creation of approximately 100 new jobs, and more young people moved back to the island community to start their own businesses.
Møre & Romsdal County Authority contributed in the municipality of Smøla with an increased focus on sustainable transport, leading to more frequent ferry departures and increased possibilities for public transport to and from the municipality. Because of this, more students could now continue to live at home, while studying in the larger towns and cities, such as Kristiansund. It has also contributed to an easier commute for the local workers.
The municipality of Smøla has been highly successful in reaching their goal of increased growth and development, the perhaps most important factor being the strong cooperation with the local community and the local businesses. The project has made Smøla a more attractive place ‑ both for its inhabitants and for the business community. The municipality has made sure that entrepreneurship and business development has been put on the main agenda, with a strengthening of the first line services provided for the entrepreneurs.
- The municipality adopted a well-established strategic business plan – a business plan where both youth, young entrepreneurs, volunteerism and culture were prioritized in development measures.
- A long-term strategy based on Smøla’s unique natural and cultural resources (Smart specialization).
- During the period 2001-2009, a joint business development agency was established for the municipality and the business sector; Smøla Culture and Business Center. Here, all the services for new entrepreneurs and established businesses are put under the same roof.
- Attitude change, optimism, and self-confidence characterize the society at Smøla today. There is more cooperation, and an entrepreneurial culture has been created, where several young entrepreneurs are now leading the way.
- In 2008, Smøla Municipality entered a binding partnership with Møre & Romsdal County Authority to facilitate for – and advise more entrepreneurs through the establishment of a hoppid.no-office at Smøla Culture and Business Center.
- The hoppid.no-office is the first meeting point for inhabitants who wish to establish a business. The office provides services, expertise, and information aimed at making the process as easy as possible for the entrepreneurs.
The main tasks of the office are:
- Providing basic guidance in the use of market research and development of business plans.
- Providing guidance regarding legal regulations and policies that may affect the establishment of a new business.
- Providing guidance concerning finances and funding opportunities.
- Connecting newly established businesses in the local innovation environment that have common interests.
- Offering courses and seminars that are relevant for entrepreneurs.
- Being an active part in providing more entrepreneurial focus in the municipality’s educational sector.
- Participating in the effort to increase the number of new businesses in the municipality.
- Facilitating meeting places and arenas for networking between newly established businesses and the existing industry.
- Connecting relevant professional competences to newly established businesses, in cooperation with the relevant regional authorities and organisations in the partnership.
- Participating and contributing in the hoppid.no network.
- Marketing of the brand “hoppid.no” as the main first line service provider in the municipality.
- -In 2009, the cultural center “Gurisenteret” was opened. This was an important meeting place for the voluntary and professional cultural life in the region, and an important meeting place for connecting business and cultural life. Several good projects had been realized because of this new meeting place.
- In 2009, “Smølahallen” was also opened, a sports hall for the entire island community, but particularly attractive for children and young people. Previously, young people had to travel all the way to Kristiansund to participate in sports and leisure activities. Because of the new sports hall, the youngsters could now participate in such activities to a larger extent, and they did not have to leave the municipality to do so.
- Increased frequency on ferry connections was also important. More young people now choose to commute to high school, rather than moving away at a young age.
- 2018 marked the opening of Smøla Culture and Business Center in new premises – all development resources for entrepreneurs and businesses were now gathered under one roof.
Timeline for policy change and funding
2000-2007: “The Transformation of Smøla”. Restructuring program financed by the national authorities, Møre & Romsdal County Authority, Innovation Norway and Smøla municipality. Link: https://www.innovasjonnorge.no/no/regional-omstilling/verktoy/plp-prosjektlederprosessen/
2000-2018: Regional development funds from Møre & Romsdal County Authority and support for various development measures.
2008-2020: hoppid.no partnership agreement
2008-2020: hoppid.no – ideas clarification good business ideas
2008-2020: hoppid.no – Commitment to cooperation with Young Entrepreneurship (UE) and Smøla municipality – mobilization of entrepreneurship and innovation camps in schools.
We believe that Smøla municipality has succeeded in achieving growth and development because they have put business development on the municipal agenda and have taken steps to strengthen the services for entrepreneurs and businesses. Together with the business community and other social actors, a number of development projects have been carried out which in total have made Smøla more attractive.
Looking back at – and evaluating the transformational project, the municipality might have had too much focus on companies that had challenges, instead of focusing on areas where there might be competitive advantages in the future.
The regional funding agencies have expertise and resources, and these could to a greater extent have been used in the project. After the municipality joined the regional partnership agreement to strengthen the entrepreneurial service hoppid.no, the cooperation with the regional funding agency increased.
This has benefited the local entrepreneurs, whom have gained access to networks, capital and expertise that exist regionally and nationally.
The local authorities and the business community was especially focusing on reaching the target group of young workers and entrepreneurs. Through an extensive cooperation with Young Entrepreneurship (UE), children and youth receive training in entrepreneurial skills and competences. The training happens in close cooperation with the local business community, which contributes with relevant cases and problem statements for the training. This has also contributed to increased attractiveness for the municipality, and has made more young people move back home after their studies.
Smøla Culture and Business Center was established as a result of the project. The Center has had an important role in the eco system of development-resources and financing provided by the municipality and the local businesses. This has made it possible to help entrepreneurs on an earlier stage than before, and has led to the establishment of an average of 19 new businesses every year for the past 3 years.
Find out more on: www.opplevsmola.no