Presenting leaders then came together for a panel discussion moderated by AmCham Managing Director Jason Turflinger. The first question, “When you speak to headquarters about Norway, how easy or difficult is it to make the case for expanding your operations here?” kicked off a dynamic, highly engaging conversation.
“Headquarters thinks, ‘Why should we invest more in Norway when you see the way some politicians attack us, with increasingly harsh regulatory frameworks?’” responded one participant.
“It’s getting harder,” added another. “I fight very hard for investment to Norway. Historically we looked favorably upon Norway, but now – it’s getting challenging.”
The challenges Norway faced, according to the panel, were twofold.
Among the Nordics, panelists argued that Norway faces an uphill climb in comparison to its entrepreneurially minded neighbors, noting issues with market access and regulatory schemes, in addition to weak public-private partnerships.
Globally, panelists noted that the cost of doing business in Norway is increasingly becoming an issue. With countries such as China, India, and the Eastern European states combining increasingly well-educated, low-cost workforces with a willingness to offer companies significant incentives for investment, Norway will have to be more innovative in attracting foreign investment.
The tone, however, was generally quite optimistic.
One participant noted that when officials for the US Securities and Exchange Commission met with their corporate leadership, they asked, “Why are the Nordics so successful in terms of SMEs?”
Another highlighted that while Norway has a high cost of doing business, employees are two times as productive as in almost any other country. Productivity and innovation capacity, they argued, must factor into any cost-benefit analysis.
Touching on global political trends and increased political polarization in Norway, Heidi Nordby Lunde implored business leaders to engage politicians.
“Ask politicians to meet with you – we will come!,” she said, going on to note the particular importance of capitalizing on this fall’s municipal elections, “Make people aware of the value you create in this city and in this nation – that is really important.”