Sunday, 23 January, 2022

Grow through Activating Local Potential


9. Glopen

Mountain panorama with the reflection of Mount Egenipa in a lake in Glopen. Photo: Hilda Veges /istock.com

Main challenges: Depopulation, few jobs outside of agriculture
Main objectives: Population growth, job creation in industry and trade, the best municipality for the integration of immigrants.
Local resources: Nature (agriculture and tourism), key companies
Main explanations for the success: Close cooperation with civil society, better integration of immigrants, emphasis on business development by the municipality
 

9.1 Local context and challenges

Figure 14 Coat of arms and location

Glopen is a municipality with 5 inhabitants in the western part of Norway (Sogn og Fjordane district). The municipal center of Glopen is Sandane with approximately 800 inhabitants. Agriculture was and remains an important industry in Glopen, centered around sheep farming, milk and fruit production. The municipality is also known for its rich cultural life and positive attitude towards voluntary social work.

Situated on the southern shores of the Nordfjorden, Glopen offers incredible scenery: high mountains, lakes and glaciers. Until recently, the number of visitors was relatively moderate.

The challenges in Glopen are mainly related to depopulation, but the municipality is also experiencing difficulties with few opportunities to work outside agriculture. In the period 2009-2018, Glopen registered a small increase in population. Figure 15 shows the demographic and job development in Glopen since 2000.

Figure 10: Demographic and job development in Glopen, 2000-2019

Number of jobs; Population

The success in Glopen is due to a combination of factors discussed in the following sections; emphasis by the municipality on business development, the future development of Glopen as a tourist destination and the successful integration of Glopen of immigrants in the community.

Hydropower

Glopen has significant hydropower resources. Measured in terms of turnover, hydropower was the most important business sector in Glopen in 2016. In 2018, the municipality's revenues from hydropower were estimated at NOK 6,6 million. Historically, hydro income has been used to finance investments in services in Glopen, for example by improving the standard of the local nursing home. Unlike other municipalities in this report, income is not only used for development. Improving the services for the residents, it can be said that the income is invested in improving the quality of life in Glopen and therefore in increasing the attractiveness of the municipality.

9.2 Activation of local potential - who and what

9.2.1 The role of the municipality

Our informant in Glopen points out three important factors when explaining success: support for volunteer work in the community and integration of immigrants, development of tourism activities in and around Glopen and emphasis on business development by the municipality.

Volunteering and the Glopen Model

As already mentioned, Glopen has a reputation for a positive attitude towards volunteering in the community, reflected in the rich organizational and cultural life in the small municipality. Our informant emphasizes the close cooperation between the municipality and the civil society in Glopen. Volunteering and volunteer organizations create meeting places and contribute to local identity. In addition, cooperation between the municipality and civil society can create value and add to the services of the municipality. An example is the local supply of food for the elderly in Glopen, which is 100% on a voluntary basis.

Close co-operation between the municipality and civil society is also likely to have an impact on Glopen's success in integrating immigrants into the local community. A few years ago, Glopen set itself the goal of becoming the best Norwegian municipality for the integration of immigrants. The ambition was included in all municipal plans and strategies. The integration of immigrants is now seen as a shared task of the local community, not just the municipality.

In 2013, the municipality launched a special project in cooperation with the district administration, the Norwegian Labor and Welfare Administration (NAV) and the local high school, later called the Glopen Model. The main goal of the project was to increase the job prospects of immigrants through a specially developed educational program in health sciences. Unlike the regular program, this program includes practical training from the first day. The program was very successful. Two years later, there were only two dropouts. 80% of immigrants in Glopen still live there after five years and almost all have jobs. The model is based on the principle that the municipality knows best the local labor market and their needs. Prior to the project, the municipality had difficulties in recruiting skilled labor in the field of health sciences. The Glopen model eliminates this challenge. The program now also offers education as a dental secretary, as well as training in boat building and several other crafts in collaboration with local businesses.

There is no doubt that the Glopen Model has had a positive effect on demographic trends. However, the integration of immigrants requires significant resources in addition to education and these challenges have not been addressed. However, the municipal commitment to integration has changed the local understanding of it and is now perceived as a common task of the community. The success is therefore the result of long-term strategic work in cooperation with civil society in Glopen.

Immigrants learn about carbon fiber components at the production base of the local boat building company Brodrene Aa. Photo: Benedict Grove / NRK

Business Development

The Municipality of Glopen has taken an active role in both promoting and supporting key companies and start-ups at the local level. This includes dialogue through formal and informal forums, the promotion of local business and financial or practical support. In the municipal business development plan adopted in 2012, the municipality states the following goal for Glopen:

The Municipality of Glopen must be a competent coordinator and guide for entrepreneurs, start-ups and established companies.

Our informant points out that the most important aspect of Glopen's work on business development is the extent to which the municipal administration has made its support visible to the business community. He also stressed that it is possible to support business development even with limited financial resources. The key is to make visible the knowledge and support that the municipality can offer and to create forums for dialogue between the municipality and the business community.

The municipality works strategically to improve the dialogue between it and the local business. The business community in Glopen has its own organization - an association of representatives of the local business community. In recent years, the municipality has been working to put this organization on a professional footing and to improve the dialogue between the municipality and the organization. Today the organization has regular meetings with the municipality. This provides an official feedback channel and an opportunity for the business community to unite and group their opinions in the dialogue with the municipality.

Another recent change is the reorganization of formal structures in the municipality. The head of the business department of the municipality is already part of the executive group in the municipality with a chief executive officer. This means that business development is now more closely linked to other priorities and services in the municipality.

The municipality has provided both practical and financial support to local businesses. For example, the municipality of Glopen has built production facilities, which are now leased to a local company in need of more space. Another company in the field of health innovation received permission to use municipal health services for experimental testing of its products. This is a clear signal from the municipality to the business community that it is ready to support local business and this has contributed to the positive development of business in Glopen.

Tourism: local experiences and local food

With its high mountains, fjords, beautiful lakes, rivers and the Myklebustbreev Glacier, Glopen is home to spectacular and unspoiled nature. The diverse landscape has great potential for a wide range of activities such as tourism, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, canoeing and more. Glopen also has a history of tourism; in the late 1800s the place was a popular destination for English lords who came here to hunt salmon in the area between Eidsfosen Falls and Glopefjord.

Fly fishing in Glopen. Photo: Bernd Kulsea - VisitNorway.com

Until recently, however, Glopen failed to use these resources to their full potential. In the municipal tourism plan for 2012-2014 the situation is described as follows:

"Compared to neighboring municipalities, which have been attracting huge numbers of tourists to glaciers and fjords for decades, Glopen has failed to position itself as a tourist destination."

This situation is changing. Since 2010, the number of visitors to Glopen and the surrounding areas has been steadily increasing[21]. The growth of tourism in the area is associated with the growing interest in the local hotel, local food and salmon fishing. The Glopen Hotel, known for its high-quality food, is one of four companies in the region participating in the Norwegian Food Imprint - Norway's Innovation Ranking of the best dining venues in Norway. The hotel’s à la carte menu consists of local products from around the hotel. According to our informant, more and more people visit the hotel because of the food experiences it offers.

The hotel’s ability to focus on local high-quality food experiences is due to its special collaboration with landowners regarding salmon fishing. In a 1996 agreement, the hotel and landowners around the river agreed that the income from salmon fishing would be shared between them. Landowners are entitled to income from fishing and land use, and the hotel receives income related to accommodation and food. The hotel emphasizes this as an important reason for its ability to focus on high-quality local food. Without this income, the hotel would head to buses full of tourists who have less money to spend in the area. Today, the hotel is very important for local producers as an ambassador of local food.

The growing interest in local food is also reflected in the increased attention to the local festival MATAMOL. The festival is a collaboration between the municipality, the business community and the Norwegian Association of Farmers and has been organized since 2010. The aim of the festival is to be a market for displaying local products. It is becoming increasingly popular with tourists and visitors.

In parallel with the increased interest in the area, the municipality of Glopen has taken the initiative to develop several opportunities for free outdoor recreation. The Trivelskogen forest area or "forest of prosperity" is a well-known initiative in Glopen. The area consists of many paths and houses. There is even a "Love Path". The area is prepared only with voluntary work and the joint efforts of the local community. A total of over 4000 hours of voluntary work have been implemented under the project. In 2018, the area was rated as one of the five best trails in the area.

The Love Path in Glopen. Photo: "Visit Nordfjord".

9.3 Results

  • Population growth in the period 2009-2018
  • Strengthening tourism in the region
  • Better integration of immigrants and acquisition of the necessary competencies in the public as well as in the private sector
  • The municipality managed to keep the key companies and attract new ones

9.4 Plans for future development

In 2018, the Municipality of Glopen adopted a new Municipal Master Plan for the period 2018-2030. It defines the long-term goals for the development of Glopen and the strategies for achieving them. The plan covers all municipal areas of activity, but also indicates the specific characteristics of the municipality.

The following goal has been set for cooperation with civil society and organizations in Glopen:

  • Strengthening and developing cooperation between the municipality and civil society

Business development and cooperation with the business community are integrated into several goals. The vision for the local community in 2030 is:

  • The Municipality of Glopen works in close cooperation with the business community for the preservation and development of new jobs.

The goal of the municipality regarding the future development of tourism is:

  • Laying the foundations for the future development of small tourism, local food production, activity and cultural activities for visitors.

In addition, the plan points out that the most important platform for marketing these experiences is the local tourism organization Visit Nordfjord.