Laader Berg's factory sits close to a stunning fjord about 450km outside the Arctic Circle on Norway's glorious west coast. Simon Robinson headed north to talk with the company about its growing business.
There are few places to match Alesund on the coast of Norway for stunning beauty, as it nestles within a combination of spectacular fjords and big, shaggy mountains. But the price of this beauty is that there is very little land to farm or build on. Legend has it that the shortage of land and a growing population drove the Vikings to expand out of the region just before the turn of the first millennium. They also make a good case in Alesund that the Queen of England is descended from Rollo, a local boy made good.
While Vikings had a reputation for fearsome violence, they also mastered the art of the team. Getting 20 people across a sea in an open boat is most certainly a team effort, and it is the team that comes through in conversations with CEO Per Henning Vaagen and his colleagues on a visit to the factory next to the Stortfjord and Geirangerfjord in early March.
But, like many other conversations at the moment, the meeting was overshadowed by the situation in the Ukraine. ‘It is a big concern of ours,’ said sales director Ragnar Kaland. ‘We have recently sold three machines in Ukraine. We think about the people and friends we have made inside those companies. [The situation there] is having a big influence here in the company. Not only as businesspeople, but as friends.’
Friends in danger
Kaland added that, for them, there is more to the situation than simply what they see in the media and on the news. ‘It is connected to names and people we know,’ he said. ‘We didn’t just have business meetings. We went fishing with them. We drank vodka together. We are friends. We are used to being in countries and areas where there are difficult times, but this is very close to us. It is closer for us to fly to Kyiv than to Rome.’