A new front was opened this week in the long-standing rivalry between Copenhagen and Stockholm over which city reigns supreme in Scandinavia.
While Stockholm has long considered itself Scandinavia’s most influential city, even branding itself as ‘The Capital of Scandinavia’, a new report from consultant firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) identified Copenhagen as the easiest Nordic capital for doing business.
In the PwC report, ‘Northern Lights: The Nordic Cities of Opportunity’, Stockholm lived up to its billing by ranking first overall, ahead of Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo and Reykjavik. Copenhagen, however, ranked highest in three areas: cost; transport and accommodations; and, most importantly, ease of doing business.
According to Copenhagen's mayor, Frank Jensen (Socialdemokraterne), much of the credit for Copenhagen’s standing as a business-friendly city is due to the steps it took last year after the Copenhagen Business Task Force issued a number of recommendations for improving the city's business climate.
“We funded many of the Task Force’s recommendations in the 2012 budget and as a result we have jumped nine places on the Confederation of Danish Industry’s list of business-friendly councils,” Jensen told The Copenhagen Post.
Copenhagen still ranks only 70th of the 96 councils in the study (two councils chose not participate) , but Jensen added that he believed the measures would pay dividends and help the city meet its economic growth target of five percent a year and four percent efficiency gains annually by 2020.
“These are ambitious goals but the report shows we are on the right course,” he said, adding that the city’s 2013 budget held a number of initiatives for making it easier to do business in Copenhagen.
First was the elimination of 15 million kroner in fees on everything from running a mobile business to shooting a film in the city’s streets or serving food outdoors.
The city also hopes to become more attractive to highly-skilled foreign workers by ensuring more international school places such as at a planned European school.
Some 12 million kroner have also been set aside to open an ‘international house’ where foreign workers can get all the practical information they need to sign up for language lessons, register their address, network and find jobs.
But the city still has some way to go according to the PwC report. Copenhagen was marginally worse than the rest of the field when it came to health, safety and security, and second to last on transport and infrastructure. And while the city was ranked as having the best entrepreneurial environment, the relatively low number of residents with higher education was regarded as a problem.
Copenhagen also ranked second worst in the 'recycled waste, air pollution and public park space' category.
The greatest challenge for the city, however, is increasing its rate of economic growth. In this category, Stockholm was first while Copenhagen was ranked last.
Much of Stockholm's growth, according to Jensen, is due to the strong links between universities and businesses.
“The big problem is that we don’t take advantage of our potential,” he said. “We have several universities and thousands of students, but haven’t connected them closely enough with business. Sweden has been better at connecting state-funded research and exploiting this research for innovation, growth and jobs.”
Jensen hopes to tackle this by investing 18.4 million kroner in the creative sectors, and investing collaborative efforts between the city, the University of Copenhagen and businesses.