Norske Skog’s CEO chose France to invest in a greener industry
Norske Skog is one of the world’s largest newsprint suppliers and an essential paper source for the magazine and directory sectors. On June 23, 2021, the Norwegian group announced its decision to invest €250 million in its Golbey industrial site (Grand-Est, France) as part of its business diversification project. This significant investment aims to convert one of the site’s two production lines from standard newsprint to recycled containerboard. The project should enable the group to become one of the leading suppliers of recycled containerboard in Europe and a key player in the circular economy. This project will sustain the 350 jobs on the French site and generate 20 direct jobs and several indirect jobs within the local ecosystem. We asked Sven Ombudstvedt, CEO of Norske Skog, why the group chose France for this investment.
“The time has come to enter the next phase of the industrial development.”
Sven Ombudstvedt explained that Norske Skog established itself in the Vosges (Grand-Est, France) in the early 1990s in the site of Golbey: “Altogether over the period there has been a significant investment on the site of almost €900 million. Many jobs have been created.” Norske Skog Golbey is a top competitive mill, and the conversion will add a further 550 000 tons of containerboard capacity. The production will be based on recycled fibers and use green energy. According to the CEO, “the site has been profitable, and the time has come to enter the next phase of the industrial development.” For Sven Ombudstvedt, “This project is a major step for the company, for the region and France—in terms of size and complexity. The cooperation with the French, regional, local and central government means that everyone wants the project to succeed.”.
“Over the last years, France has changed a lot.”
Sven Ombudstvedt stressed that the mill’s competitiveness was closely linked to its strategic location in the Vosges (Grand-Est), close to the major European cities, and essential raw material supply areas like forestry. He also underlined the importance of “the cooperation with the French government.” Indeed, according to the CEO: “Over the last years, France has changed a lot.” Sven Ombudstvedt quickly added, “I think France has always been able to protect its industry inside the European Union together with Germany. But now that the deficit with Germany has been closed, France is racing ahead for different reasons”. Norske Skog’s CEO praises the changes introduced by the French administration since 2017, “we can feel this change in behavior and responsiveness. We’ve always felt that France has been a good place to do business, and now there is an even higher degree of industrial agenda; we feel supported and encouraged.”
Read more: 10 tips for setting up a business in France
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Smooth collaboration with the different partners
When asked about the support granted to the project by the various public actors, Sven Ombudstvedt stressed that “the support [the company] got from Business France and Choose France, has contributed to the realization of the project and to have access to important people.” What’s more, the CEO “enjoyed the support of the French programs for the greening of the economy” notably in R&D. Indeed, Norske Skog is the largest shareholder of Circa Group, establishing itself in the northeast of France, that attempts to create high value from fiber residues. Finally, Ombudstvedt enlightens that he was “very grateful for all the support that the state is putting to make France attractive financially.” He only pointed out that he wishes “regulatory processes for industrial projects [would] be shortened and simplified.”
The CEO’s advice to Nordic Investors in France: “Not everyone needs to be in Paris or the Côte d’Azur!”
According to Sven Ombudstvedt, the keystone of a successful investment is “to be involved at different levels.” Indeed, “History showed [the CEO] that having local cables politically and in the community is very important. The system works on several levels, so you must work with the local, the regional and the national level”. According to Norske Skog’s CEO, “If you come fresh into a bigger system, you have to invest the time to get to know the people and the system.” His second advice is to “pick your location to use the regional varieties and the regional skills” as Norske Skog did when it decided to set up its mill in the Vosges. Indeed, “Not everyone needs to be in Paris or the Côte d’Azur!”
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Article written by Charlotte Bloch