Vaasa moves ahead with electric tech park, despite Tesla loss to Berlin

Electric car manufacturer Tesla will build its new factory in Berlin, despite heavy lobbying from the west coast city to bring the plant to its new "gigafactory" energy park site.

Panoramic view of site for Vaasa's gigafactory energy park / Credit: @gigavaasa Instagram

The City of Vaasa is dusting itself off, after losing out on a major business deal to Berlin.

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk announced on Tuesday night that his company chose the German capital as the new location for a Tesla electric vehicle and battery production facility.

Vaasa, in Finland’s west coast, has been promoting itself as a leading centre for energy technology, and lobbying battery manufacturers heavily to locate their offices or factories at a new site being developed near the airport.

Musk’s announcement however didn’t come as too much of a surprise – even though the prospective Vaasa site for the Tesla factory still has the optimistic slogan “the location for the next Tesla gigafactory will be Vaasa” on its social media accounts.

“It was anticipated, we know that Tesla has been having their eyes on Germany for a longer time already. Germany has made a lot of efforts and they are looking into the structural changes in their automotive industry. Therefore this was an understandable solution” says Vaasa Mayor Tomas Häyry.

“I think that Tesla’s decision to establish a factory in Europe is good for Europe, because it increases battery manufacturing knowledge” he adds.

Vaasa’s energy tech drive 

In recent years Vaasa has been building up its own capacity and reputation as a place where energy tech companies could come to do research or manufacturing.

But there’s been a shift away from focusing on electric vehicles, to engaging instead with power and energy storage systems, marine transport and other machinery instead.

“This is the area where we have top knowledge. And if you think about energy storage systems it’s not enough to make a battery, you need to have a lot of components, and we are world leaders in the energy cluster in Vaasa” Häyry tells News Now Finland.

File picture of Vaasa Mayor Tomas Häyry visiting Wärtsilä Zhenjiang factory, China, May 2017 / Credit: @GigaVaasa Instagram

Building a new electric park 

The headline act in Vaasa’s energy hub strategy is preparing a new industrial park near the airport.

Although the City of Vaasa isn’t building any factories itself, it’s laying the groundwork for companies to want to invest there and build their own facilities.

“We’ve done the zoning, so all the zoning plans are in already there and in effect. So you could start applying for building permits. We’ve done all the environmental assessment programmes as far as you can go without knowing the end client” says Mayor Tomas Häyry.

The city is already talking with some potential new residents for the energy park.

“I see that we have our work in a very intensive phase. We have a lot of discussions ongoing and I’m quite certain we will have established companies coming to Vaasa” he explains.

“Because the demand is growing.”