When work becomes passion and passion becomes reality / Interview Jacob Bundsgaard, mayor of Aarhus & alderman Marc pera Christensen / Go Green Aarhus 2017 / Theory U / The Yes! Municipality / Godsbanen Trailerpark / Furture Practice- Knowledge & Experiments / Entrepreneurial Portraits /City of ceres : How to build a City / Hope is Green / Aarhus University: Student Incubator / Let's Go Co-Create / Steps toward a Sustainable Future / Green Entrepreneurial portraits / Sustainable Footprint / Eco System /The Thornico Building / Spot a Wealthy Investor
ALL TRANSLATED BY :
A dialogue containing five questions to Jacob Bundsgaard, mayor of Aarhus & Marc Perera Christensen, alderman Culture- and Citizen, Municipality of Aarhus
» #1. How can the municipality support the creative entrepreneurial milieu?
- Marc Perera Christensen: A large part of it is to create a new mind set, which appreciates just how important creative entrepreneurs are for the city. The municipality must become better at expressing that the cultural and creative clusters are just as valuable for the city as the AgroFood and Cleantech groups. The power and potential of the city’s entrepreneurs must become a clearer part of the town’s contemporary history because this is what drives the city. This is what has made this city great and this is what is really driving progress in Aarhus today. This is why we involve both small and large creative firms in business politics. We need to give newly established companies advice and feedback in the running of their businesses and we must help them connect with the rest of the business world. There are many skills and areas of expertise in this city that can aid and assist each other. The Student House uses a great deal of energy on fostering interactions between young students with a flair for business and established business figures that can act as mentors and supervisors for the students. The municipality could also host some of these meetings. One obvious occasion could be our annual New Year’s meeting at the City Hall.
- Jacob Bundsgaard: In the future some of the big business ventures will involve entrepreneurs, for example in the film and fashion industries. My vision is to unite the city around the message that entrepreneurs are important for Aarhus. Half of all new jobs in Aarhus are created by entrepreneurs. The fact that more and more people wish to start something from scratch is hugely valuable to society. We must equip the new generation with the right knowledge of how to start something new. They must know that it involves hard work and is praiseworthy. As a city we have an interest in, and a need for, promoting two types of value creation: what does your business generate in terms of economic value, turnover, jobs and profit; and what value does your product or the result of your work have for the rest of society - what experiences, changes or creations does your business provide? The latter can rarely be measured in money. There are concrete services that we as a city should offer. We already offer a number of various initiatives that, amongst others, are provided by The Incubator where you can get feedback and advice and where you can receive and pay for consultancy services. We should also try to promote a culture where it is seen as more normal to start something yourself; being an entrepreneur should be an appealing career choice on a part with other career choices. We should inspire and encourage students at primary schools as well as further educations, so they are aware that entrepreneurship both includes developing an idea into a product that can be sold on the market, and a way of developing oneself and forming yourself as an individual.
» #2. Which new kinds of collaborations are being used between creative companies?
- Marc Perera Christensen: The crucial thing is that companies don’t isolate themselves with projects but exploit the value inherent in working as a group and in temporary partnerships. The central element in a socalled business cluster is that companies work together and share resources and facilities because they are working towards some common goals. Shared working spaces are established and an atmosphere develops where related companies can inspire each other and collaborate on certain projects and assignments. At one time car companies started setting up shop next to each other because they discovered that they all benefitted commercially by being located close to each other. This is a good example of how a cluster can be formed.
- Jacob Bundsgaard: When we assess Aarhus’ strong points we find that cross-disciplinary collaboration is amongst them. We are very aware of the necessity of working together in order to succeed. A good example of this is Smart Aarhus. It is an open data project where the Municipality, project groups and individuals cooperate to find new digital solutions that make it easier, more sustainable, more fun and better to live in the city. In this collaboration, Aarhus Municipality provided all the data on everything from kindergartens to public footpaths. For example a private individual has recently developed a mobile app to help locate the nearest public toilet.
» #3. How can the municipality be involved in creating optimal conditions for the creative industry?
- Marc Perera Christensen: Culture-producing companies must have access to the same framework conditions as all other industries. This includes a clear and transparent processing of applications so that, for example, if the company applies for a building permit, they can follow the progress of the case. This includes simple and flexible administrative procedures so that the municipality is seen as a service body rather than a control body. When a firm contacts the municipality they must feel that the municipality offers them assistance and effective guidance so that the company can, as quickly as possible, start generating added value for them self and society. In terms of taxation, it is important that we have a municipality where it is attractive to run a business. It is therefore vital that we ensure that the city’s businesses are not taxed too hard respective to the surrounding municipalities. At the same time we need to work towards making the spotting and connecting of businesses across sectors part of the Business and Culture Administration’s task. Employees at these public offices are in daily contact with the region’s businesses and they therefore hold some very important information. One business could have found an effective solution to a problem that another business is also experiencing – these two businesses should help each other out. Instead of calling Aarhus a ‘Yes Municipality´, I am more interested in how we can turn this way of working into a standard working model. It is what we do that is important and it is essentially about healthy salesmanship – service, common sense, clarity and an ability to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. We want to see experiments with new entrepreneurial projects in the years up to 2017; an abandoned building filled with small, newly established businesses fitted in a Spartan simple style with chalk marks on the floor and a desk and cupboard for each – or a city of office containers on a field?
- Jacob Bundsgaard: “The entrepreneur should be allowed to be the entrepreneur and we should avoid taking over that role.” Instead the Municipality should offer advice and feedback and provide a culture where it is admirable to start up your own business. We should inspire more people to dare to try. We should connect those who are thinking about starting up something themselves. They need the right support to get started and realise their ideas. The Municipality should provide the necessary conditions for ideas and venture capital to meet each other – both regarding foreign and Danish investors and entrepreneurs. I will work towards making it more common for high net worth individuals and businesses to sponsor new businesses, just like they already sponsor sports clubs. A kind of sponsorship that is driven by a love for the city.
» #4. Will we see experiments with new entrepreneurial projects in the years up to 2017?
- Marc Perera Christensen: We are legally required to get rid of municipal buildings that we are no longer using. The municipality could offer these building-free areas to private initiatives to use for a period of time as we are currently in a situation where we have a lot of land available. The city would benefit from taking a more laid-back approach, as we seem to be hurrying at the moment to sell the land and buildings and plan strategic urban development. The high tempo that this is happening with prevents smaller initiatives from developing and meeting their potential as local area plans take over. It is most definitely in my interest to support initiatives such as establishing a Container City with well-designed offices, like that in London, possibly being located by the old freight yard and the ring road bridge.
- Jacob Bundsgaard: This is already happening in many places across the city, such as Fodboldfabrikken at Ceres Byen and the fashion clusters at the harbour. These businesses are organising themselves under the same roof where you sit close together and can form clusters. These businesses are using and helping each other out both formally and informally. Such working environments arise out of private initiatives and as a Municipality we should not take over this role. We should give people permission to be there and otherwise stay out of it. Passionate individuals are sure to make lots of interesting things happen.
» #5. How could Aarhus become the world’s best city at being entrepreneurial with international impact and visibility?
- Marc Perera Christensen: Aarhus is a strong international brand as a result of Aarhus University. International students and researchers take the knowledge of Aarhus out into the world and this makes a huge impact on the world stage. Another example is Olafur Eliasson’s rainbow, which amongst other items, led to a two-page article about Aarhus in the New York Times. Several international newspapers have sent their journalists to Aarhus to cover the city and the people that live here who claim to be the happiest people in the world.
- Jacob Bundsgaard: The city can offer a great starting point for self-employed businesses. Denmark is in the top league when it comes to ease of starting a new company and we should work towards rendering what Aarhus can offer more visible. We should spread the message that it is easy to open a new company in Aarhus and that the city has a number of services to offer fledgling businesses. We should also try to make ourselves known as the city that brings businesses together. We have, amongst other things, a high concentration of people working in the creative industry. Finally we should, to a far greater extent than we do now, be a city that uses its purchasing power to support new businesses. “There is a tremendous amount of potential to exploit if we used the Municipality’s purchasing power more intelligently.”
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