“The fifth High North Hero award winner is strongly engaged in business and societal development in the High North. The winner is both visionary and practical.”
That was how chair of the High North Hero Award jury Anu Fredrikson explained the jury’s decision on this year’s High North hero. The award was conferred during High North Dialogue in Bodø, Norway Thursday afternoon. This year’s conference is a hybrid mix of physical and digital formats, and the year’s High North Hero had made his way to Bodø to be honored for his engagement with the High North.
During the acceptance speech, he demonstrated his engagement through donating the money award of NOK 50 000 (appr. USD 6,000) to two projects.
“I would like to donate half of the award money to one of the finalists in yesterday’s competition High North Young Entrepreneur who impressed me, Music Alchemy from Arkhangelsk, Russia. the other half I would like to donate to a project fighting plastic ocean waste. We at the Tschudi group will look closer at who exactly that will be”, Tschudi said.
Why does the hero believe he was selected?
“I very much appreciate this award. I hope it is because I am personally and enthusiastically engaged, and because I have demonstrated enthusiasm for the High North for a long time. It is all about keeping up the good fight, through the good and the bad days. And believe me, it has not always been a walk in the park. But I believe I have contributed to this cause, which is very close to my heart”, Felix Tschudi says to High North News.
Joined the family business
Who is the High North Hero award winner?
Felix Henry Tschudi is the owner and chairman the Tschudi Group, which is developed around the Tschudi Shipping Company. He has been in the navy and got his education from the London School of Echonomics as well as an MBA from INSEAD near Paris, France.
In 1989, he joined the family company Tschudi & Eitzen. He owns and chairs the Tschudi Group, which recently sold Sydvaranger mine to the American-Canadian mining company Tacora Resources, of which the Tschudi Group now is a part owner.
Tschudi is a symbol of industry, knowledge and economy in and for the High North, according to Jury Chairperson Anu Fredrikson, who continues:
“Our hero sees opportunities and speaks for the region. He is visionary in his attempt at organizing the first truly international commercial trade route through the Northeast Passage.”
A man of action
“The winner does what he says he’ll do, and the consequences of his efforts are shown in concrete projects benefiting the High North”, Fredrikson said during the award ceremony. She pointed in particular to Tschudi’s engagement with the mining industry as a concrete evidence of engagement, endurance and will to invest in the High North.
Creating good, interesting work opportunities for families helps people want to live in the place where that is found.
It is important for Felix Tschudi to build bridges between business, knowledge communities and the authorities, amongst others in his role as initiator to and Chair of the Centre for High North Logistics, a center affiliated with Nord University.
“Mutual understanding and cooperation between these sectors is particularly important in the High North, where opportunities arise in the intersection between these two”, the hero of the day says.
“Felix Tschudi is a person who is genuinely and glowingly engaged with development of the High North, and one who has also demonstrated his willingness to invest in the High North”, says Director Frode Mellemvik of the High North Center for Business and Governance.
Felix Tschudi, what is important right now?
“Normalizing society after the pandemic. That is what I would want. Yes, we have learned a lot from working digitally, however, that does not fully replace personal meetings. People have to meet and talk”, Tschudi says.
He is not alone in missing contact with colleagues and family. Nevertheless, he is well pleased what the company has managed to achieve during the pandemic, amongst that: establishing a foundation for reopening the mine in Kirkenes under new owners.
“Now Tacora Resources has taken over the lead, although we still own a share of the company. But like with everything else, the reopening has been delayed by the pandemic”, the High North enthusiast says with a sigh.
Nevertheless, there is still positivity and a drive forward in the project. This in particular important locally, and he believes the reopening will have significant local ripple effects.
“We are gathering experience, for better or worse, and take that onboard for later. We have offices in Europe, Africa and China, with staff we are not able to meet in person. That has caused a series of challenges.
The mining project aside, what is the Tschudi Group working on at present?
“We work on developing activities in the port of Kirkenes, which is a year-round port, with imports, exports and service. We also operate logistics and project transport, as well as re-loading of liquefied natural gas at sea”, Tschudi says.
The company also works with sales related to the re-using of mining rock materials and building materials.
He also points to the Boreal Maritime Group in Skjervøy, which offers services both for the oil and gas industry as well as the seafood industry in Northern Norway. One of the Tschudi Group’s many activities is being represented in Mozambique, Africa with logistics and shipping services.
“We need to have more legs to stand on, so that there is always at least one that is functioning when the crisis hits. Because new crisis will hit, though fortunately not everywhere and at the same time. I hope!” Felix Tschudi says with a laugh.
It has happened, however, the perfect storm. Yet the family company weathered that crisis too.
Today, Felix Tschudi is celebrated for the resilience and survival skills he brings to the High North. He has faith, to put it like that. Faith in the future, a living Arctic, in the young being the future.
What do you believe it takes for the young to want to live in the High North?
“Activity, education on all levels, and thus a foundation for a safe personal economy” Tschudi answers without hesitation.
But not just any activity; there has to be full life opportunities.
“Creating good, interesting work opportunities for families helps people want to live in the place where that is found. I believe that is key. Good and appropriate education, interesting jobs for both adults in a family, and opportunities and friends for their children.”
More difficult with Russia
There is talk of increasing cooling of relations between Norway and Russia, and that also affects business and cooperation. How is your relationship to Russia these days?
“Our relationship is good, based on common business sense and personal trust. Yet it is generally harder now due to big politics. The cooperation climate is colder and Russian authorities want to be as independent as possible. That makes it harder to cooperate and start up new projects in Russia.”
The fresh High North Hero nevertheless has a bright outlook on the future, in particular when it comes to resource extraction and shipping.
“We now have a window of opportunity for constructing new vessels with new, sustainable technology and new opportunities for using renewable energy sources”, Tschudi says.
“We managed to cooperate in the High North despite the Cold War. We have to be able to do that now too.”
The High North Hero award jury refers to him as visionary and an innovator. Felix Tschudi refers to himself as an engaged guy with his heart solidly rooted in the family company and the High North. Perhaps that means exactly the same.
About the High North Hero award
Every year, the High North Center for Business and Governance at Nord University Business School awards the High North Hero prize to a person or organization contributing to development and growth in the Arctic. The award consists of NOK 50,000 (appr. USD 6,000) and the award is conferred in relation to the international conference High North Dialogue, which takes place in Bodø. Nordland County funds the award.
This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.