neljapäev, aprill 01, 2010

põhjamaade satelliit

It's all becoming very clear to me, the whole thing. My perspective is informed by time and distance. Only with time and distance is it possible sometimes to make sense of things.

It began with a newspaper on a Wednesday morning. Sami Seppänen, CEO of Finnish telecommunication firm Elisa's Estonian office, had finally done it. He had unearthed the domestic Holy Grail. The chalice of Kalev. Estonia's Nokia. What is it, you ask? I wanted to know too, so I read the whole article.

Nordic trade unions, Sami wrote. They are always on strike. It's such a pain, that it makes sense for the Nordic countries to outsource their manufacturing to nearby Estonia. And they are already coming.

"Electronics producer Elcoteq is expanding its manufacturing in Tallinn, the Danes' Flexa is closing its factory in Denmark and moving its furniture manufacturing to Estonia, the Finns' Incap wants to close its Finnish factory and bring its electronics production to Estonia, the Swedes' car tire maker Trellborg is bringing from Sweden part of its production over to Estonia, and Ericcson Estonia's production is also growing."

It's like a perfect storm, no, even better, a shooting star, a Nordic meteroid of manufacturing jobs is headed this way, set to recreate the awesome collision in Saaremaa that Lennart Meri hypothesized gave the Scandinavians their "Thule" so many years ago. But how should we feel about this? How should we feel now that the search is over, and Eesti Nokia is on its way across the Baltic, packed away in boxes of electronic equipment?

The Scandinavians and the Estonians have a long, intimate history. As far back as the fabled year of 1991, when the Estonians regained their independence, historians familiar with old chronicles agree that it was not the Americans or Brits or French who were most eager to recognize it. Instead it was Reykjavik, followed quickly by Copenhagen, that, two days after the August 20 reaffirmation, restored relations on the basis of the de jure relations that had existed since 1922. Reading Seppänen's article, I began to wonder, maybe this was the secret plan all along: to pry the Estonians away from Moscow so that they could become the "sixth Nordic country," akin to the "fifth Beatle," a nifty little R&D and assembly shop, a satellite across the sea.

Of course, no Estonian is content to be the fifth Beatle. Even if he just plays organ on a few songs, he wants full membership in the band. He wants to be on the album cover, not in the liner notes. The Estonian wants to see his somber tricolor up there, tossing in the air alongside the crosses of the giants. He aims to look Stockholm in the eye, not up the nose. And so the joy with which Estonia's Nokia is received is muted. Others whisper. What can sate the Estonian's hunger for status, money, and international prestige?

At night, I pace back in my workshop, trying to put it all together. For years, the Estonians have dreamed of their own Nokia, their own launching pad to prosperity. But what if Seppänen is right? What if Estonia's Nokia doesn't come in the form of shiny communication devices, but as manufacturing jobs outsourced to a sunny corner of an often troublesome galaxy of labor. I worry as I pace. Will the Estonians be content? It's up them, I determine. Something to mull over as they assemble consumer electronics and detail rubber tires.

14 kommentaari:

Myst ütles ...

But how should we feel about this?

Very happy, I think. Until we can play well, being the fifth Beatle is great.

Martasmimi ütles ...

* you have a workshop that you pace in?

Markku ütles ...

The next thing we will see is people, not just businesses will start moving too. From Finland to Estonia, that is. Thus far it has been almost exclusively the other way, but Finland is trying hard to win a race to the bottom. It is not just the strikes, but a general unwillingness to face the facts.

Just a day ago I saw a job ad in Finland for a call center person in Tallinn. Hardly a high-salary job, but perfect for someone who is tired of the stale atmosphere on this side of the pond. As Finnish companies move to Estonia, there will be more jobs available to assist in transition. Finland will start losing young, educated people. This has been going on in a Sweden for over a decade, but for various reasons hasn't yet began in Finland. It will.

The fabled Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel would greatly speed up the collapse of Finnish welfare society, which is based on placing the state apparatus over the individual, and gross misallocation of capital. Not all shuttling between the cities would be Estonian.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Martasmimi ütles...
* you have a workshop that you pace in?

Giustino ütles...
*Of course.

* any hidden bottles out there? : )

Kristjan Velbri ütles ...

The fact that these companies are moving to Estonia is great, but something that doesn't get a lot of media attention (for some reason) is that a lot of companies have been leaving. I'm not very familiar with the exact names and number of jobs coming in and going out but overall there is no reason for Scandinavian companies to ship their manufacturing jobs to Estonia (compared to, say, China or Thailand). From this we can say that these are not permanent jobs - whenever costs start eating away at profit margins jobs are at risk (Elcoteq is a great example of a company that used cheap Estonian labor, but then shipped a lot of jobs to China due to rising costs here).

Kristopher ütles ...

Seems plausible and, more importantly, sane.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Here in the states were are seeing the beginnings of
"back shoring" or "in-sourcing"). the return of manufacturing back here to the USA.
Concerns over corporate privacy and intellectual property have been fueling this.

Jim Hass ütles ...

Estonia is also well placed to ship quickly to European markets products that are time sensitive, but also rather bulky to ship by air. Logistics and language and culture are all more comfortable for Finnish investors, I am sure.

Unknown ütles ...

The thing that makes Estonia more Scandinavian is the fact that it doesn't have Scandinavian workers' rights?

Ain Kendra ütles ...

isn't it small mistake - train union?

Giustino ütles ...

It was. Fixed!

Conza Quenza ütles ...

Well, here is another Finnish company moving something to Estonia. And in this case it is not the smallest of Finnish companies..
It's in Estonian only though..

Myst ütles ...

I wish we could get Nokia to move to Estonia. Why, that could be the Estonian Nokia! :P

Doug0212 ütles ...

"The Estonian wants to see his somber tricolor up there, tossing in the air alongside the crosses of the giants. He aims to look Stockholm in the eye, not up the nose."

Justin - I was reading this as I was listening to So What from Pink - I love it!

Markku - Great comments! And who the hell would ever fund a Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel? You're not England and France - not yet at least. Hovercraft would be better. Turn that painfully slow 2 hour ride down to probably about 1/2 hour. Hey - there's a new business opportunity. Maybe they already exist and I just don't know it.

Justin - Jah - what's with the "workshop"? I saw a pic of you on youtube at what looked like a home in the country you had just purchased. Must have been there.

Kristjan - I've read that jobs are coming back from overseas (to the U.S.) because of fuel costs. The cost savings are as great as they used to be and these "developing" countries are getting wealthier so their labor costs keep rising.

Martasmimi - You're also in the states? What state would that be? I'm northwest of Chicago.

Estonians might take a look at how under developed nations have historically come up from the bottom. First, they offer very cheap labor and lots of government support to get companies to come in. Second, they get these companies to install their latest equipment. Third, they take everything apart (apparently in some back room where the unsuspecting offshore investors can't see what's going on). Fourth, they start to imitate their offshore investors with cheap knockoffs. Fifth, the government heavily subsidizes their country's own companies to make product of equal quality and export them at deep discounts all over the world. Sixth, immense wealth results - check out China's balance sheet. I think I read that they have a couple of trillion in the bank - mostly from the good old U.S. of A.

If only Estonians could shake off the past and forget and forgive.