The first weekend in October marked a momentous several days for the overall U.S.-Swedish relationship and for the relationship’s dynamic “Minnesota dimension.” Their Majesties, the King and Queen of Sweden, visited Minneapolis and St. Peter, Minnesota, to celebrate the 150thanniversary of Gustavus Adolphus College, to dedicate the American Swedish Institute’s (ASI) new Nelson Cultural Center, and to attend a reception in their honor, hosted by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. Sweden’s Ambassador to the United States, Jonas Hafström, and I had the honor of accompanying Their Majesties throughout the weekend.
For the two of us, this wonderful weekend culminated in an important bioenergy business roundtable discussion, which took place on a brilliant early fall Sunday in Minneapolis. Thirty representatives from the Minnesota and Swedish bioenergy industries, government officials, and academics gathered in the very building that the King and Queen of Sweden had just dedicated the previous day. Bruce Karstadt, Sweden’s Honorary Consul General and ASI President, hosted the meeting in a beautiful conference room in the new center, the perfect venue for the discussion topic as the center is rapidly gaining recognition for its Swedish-American design that incorporates the very latest in environmentally friendly features.
Jointly organized by the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota, BBAM, and the Swedish Bioenergy Association, Svebio, under the auspices of their Bioenergy Partnership, the discussion centered on examples of public-private bioenergy projects in Minnesota and ways in which the many stakeholders in business, government, and academia may be able to promote and encourage more such projects. Many of those present had traveled to Sweden earlier this spring to participate in the World Bioenergy Conference in Jönköping (pronounced: yuhn-shiping) and for meetings in Stockholm, including a business roundtable discussion, organized by the Swedish Trade Council, on the topic of Minnesota-Swedish cooperation in bioenergy. Since the group had agreed then to meet again soon, this event was a timely opportunity to further the discussion.
Following Ambassador Hafström’s and my welcoming remarks on the importance of the overall U.S.-Swedish relationship in trade and investment and, specifically, on cooperation in the area of bioenergy, we heard presentations on several projects in Northern Minnesota, where the bulk of Minnesota’s forestry biomass resource is located. Featured were (1) feasibility studies on biomass district heating systems to support energy efficiency and jobs for the cities of Ely and Grand Marais; (2) Itasca Community College’s partnership with the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden, Skogforsk, to develop further the forest-based bioenergy supply chain in Minnesota; (3) the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint through the installation of small and mid-sized biomass thermal solutions with the goal of protecting the reservation’s resources for the cultural, spiritual, and physical well-being of its people; and (4) the city of Duluth’s efforts to transition to the use of renewable resources for its district energy system, based on District Energy St. Paul’s model. Notably, Duluth has an active Sister City relationship with Växjö, Sweden, recognized as one of the “greenest” cities in Europe.
This Sunday roundtable discussion in Minneapolis underscored the importance of the Swedish-U.S. business relationship, a relationship that has never been more dynamic and exciting.
“Swedish innovation and U.S. scale” comprise a strong foundation for Swedish investment in Minnesota, and in the U.S., as a whole. Our businesses share similar values set based on social responsibility, openness and transparency, and together with involvement from governments and academia, we can do even more to promote public-private partnerships than we already are. I really believe that our two countries share the innovation, creativity and will to create a better world, and that working together we can create common solutions to common challenges, in this case, developing and growing sustainable, cost-effective bioenergy projects in Minnesota. Along with Ambassador Hafström, I look forward to supporting the group’s next steps in this exciting and very worthwhile venture.
For more photos from the Minnesota visit, please see the Embassy’s Flickr feed.