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Sørvær lies in the far north of Norway. The landscape is bare and there is little soil, so fish is the only game in town here. Located in Hasvik Municipality in Finnmark, this small fishing village with around 177 permanent residents is home to a factory that means a lot to the local community.
“For Sørvær it means everything to have Lerøy operating here. Without this company, I don’t think there would be much going on here at all”, says Frank Arne Ylänen, Lerøy Norway Seafoods’ factory manager in Sørvær.
Since many employees live outside the village, the factory is also important to the wider municipality.
“The employees who live elsewhere spend their incomes and generate activity wherever they live, by using local kindergartens, schools, shops and so on”, says Frank Arne.
The CEO of Lerøy Norway Seafoods, Børge Soleng, explains that the company is very conscious of its social mission and role in building the coastal communities where it operates. In fact, that is laid down in the company’s strategy.
“It is because we take our social mission seriously that we have invested heavily in Sørvær in recent years”, says Børge.
Since the fish is produced in Norway, it should also create wider benefits along the Norwegian coast, according to Frank Arne. Creating employment and processing fish locally is an important part of Lerøy’s strategy.
“It is absolutely fantastic! It is one of the best things that has happened, at least for us, after we were acquired and heard that they wanted most of the fish to be processed in Norway and at the factory.”
In Norway, it is not uncommon for companies to send fish abroad because it is cheaper to process it in other countries.
“It is reassuring in terms of keeping our jobs safe, which wasn’t always the case. In the past, we didn’t know whether we would have a job tomorrow and what there would be for us to do. Now there is a plan and a strategy”, he says.
Doing most of the processing in Norway creates more full-time jobs for local people and avoids emissions from unnecessary transport.
“If it were up to me, there would be a tax on sending fresh fish abroad for processing”, says Frank Arne.
Lerøy also prioritises buying services and goods from other local companies. In 2021, it bought one million Norwegian kroner worth of goods and services from six different companies in the municipality.
“That’s what keeps a coastal community alive. We use the local dry cleaner, and whatever else we can; we support the local community”, says the factory manager.
In 2011, the factory was voted the municipality’s company of the year. The jury praised the company for recruiting people to Sørvær and getting them to settle in the municipality, as well as focusing on high-quality fresh fish that increases the amount of value added locally.
“That is always a priority for us”, says Frank Arne.
Børge also praises the work done at the factory.
“Sørvær is a great facility, with incredibly skilled staff. We are amazingly lucky to have such a great factory manager out there!” says Børge.
The recruitment strategy doesn’t just mean they have enough employees at the factory: it also helps to keep the local community going. When people move to the area to work at the factory, Frank Arne personally helps them with paperwork and finding somewhere to live, including by going on viewings. A few years ago, there was talk that the local kindergarten would have to close if more children didn’t go there. In response, Frank Arne took matters into his own hands and signed up his son, even though he didn’t need a place as he was at home with his mum.
“Now there are so many children that there isn’t space for them all at the kindergarten.”
During the pandemic, many workers didn’t return to work, with several foreign employees being unable to get back into Norway. That has made it extra important for Frank Arne to help out wherever he can and to create a good local community, so that he has a more stable workforce. Amongst other things, the factory is the main sponsor of the highly popular annual rock festival, Sørøyrocken. Frank Arne says he has received feedback that it would be impossible to organise a festival like that without sponsors like them.
“I don’t think there would much going on here at all if it weren’t for Lerøy Norway Seafoods Sørvær”, repeats Frank Arne.