Forum calls for regional development

  • 2001-06-07
  • Rita Bubina
VALMIERA - The third international business forum, Valmieras Forums, organized to enhance sustainable development in eastern Latvia's Vidzeme region, was held June 1-2 in the city of Valmiera.

About 250 business people from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Germany and other European countries gathered at the forum, a rare international event of such scale outside Riga.

Participants said they were pleased with the event and most of them had built promising business contacts.

"We have mainly come to show our product to the Latvian market, but we have also made some interesting contacts," said Gunter Kozlowski, managing director of German aluminum-blinds manufacturer Heoral.

Iveta Geidane, a representative of the Norwegian interior-design company Better Deal ASA, said the forum proved Latvia has competitive producers and quality products that could appeal to the Norwegian market. Better Deal was looking for interior-design products and construction materials.

Jurgen Marx, project director of the Vidzeme Industrial Training Center, introduced the participants to his organization, which opens on July 6. The center is a pilot project in the Baltic states and will mainly deal with the further education of those specialists that cannot improve their qualification in any other school in Latvia. Its main programs include metalwork, building, electronics, business and computer science. The total cost of the project is 5 million Deutschemarks ($2.16 million) that have been covered by several German funds, the Valmiera municipality and local enterprises.

"Latvia has to raise the qualification and mobility of the workers, diminish the level of youth unemployment as well as integrate Russian-speaking people into the job market, only then will it be able to cope with the standards of the EU," said Marx.

One of the main goals of the forum was to promote export opportunities for local companies.

One of the best examples of successful export companies in the Vidzeme region is the Valmiera fiberglass company, A/S Valmieras Stiklaskiedra, which sells its production to European countries, United States, Japan and South Africa, the company's representative Inars Polaks said. During the Soviet period 99 percent of the production went to the Soviet Union, but now Russia accounts for only 1 percent of its sales. Due to the high costs of transportation the company is looking for partners in nearby Latvian regions and neighboring countries. The forum therefore was an excellent possibility, he noted.