Helsinki, Finland image via Kati Kosonen, representing Helsinki Congress Paasitorni.
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
A team of business leaders in the San Joaquin Valley is preparing to embark on an educational voyage to Finland with the hopes of bringing back fresh ideas on energy and innovation.
The trip, which is scheduled for September, is being organized by the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation and sponsored by the Consulate General of Finland in Los Angeles. The purpose of the visit will be to study the innovations and steps made in clean energy by Finnish businesses, and the Fresno group’s first day of the trip will be spent at the Arctic Energy Summit in the Finnish capital, Helsinki.
Organizers hope to get at least 10 people signed up for the trip.
“Finland is noted for innovation in the use of biomass conversion into biofuel and renewable energy,” said Biodico, Inc. CEO Russ Teall, who is one of the people expected to make the trip “and we’re looking forward to meeting some of the companies that are doing cutting-edge research and development.”
With its main office in Ventura County, Biodico, which specializes in renewable energy, currently operates a plant between Five Points and Huron that produces 20 million gallons of biodiesel fuel annually. Teall described it in a press release as the first plant of its kind in the world to run entirely on renewable energy sources.
“I’ve been concerned, as everyone is, about the water issues here and about clean energy and biotech,” said Andrea C. McAleenan, the founder and president of Building Global Bridges, a company dedicated to international exchanges in business and education. “And the more I learned about some of the issues that we confront in the Valley, I thought: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could have some dialogue with Finland?’”
McAleenan, who orchestrated the trip, has her roots in Finland, as all four of her grandparents immigrated from there to Michigan. She has been involved with the country since she directed the executive and part-time master of business administration programs at the Anderson School of Management at UCLA.
In 1994, she suggested that the school do its annual international field study on the Finnish corporation, Nokia, and McAleenan said the seven-month study led to a lifelong connection with the country.
“I think that really was a catalyst for me staying in touch with Finland in a new way other than family culture and heritage,” McAleenan said, “so I have been following the business and education scene since then.”
Last year, McAleenan led a team of 12 professors from Fresno Pacific University to Finland and Estonia, where they studied the countries’ education systems, leading to continued joint research between the Fresno Pacific professors and their foreign colleagues.
In addition to sending Valley residents to Finland, that country will send business leaders in August to the Valley to study food processing and retail.