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Finnish Company Moves U.S. Headquarters to Peachtree Corners

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Valmet’s corporate mission of sustainable energy and carbon-neutral production fits in with local goals.

The appealing aspects of Peachtree Corners led leaders of Valmet, a Finnish-based global developer and supplier of process technologies, automation and services for the pulp, paper and energy industries, to move its headquarters to the city.

“In about March of last year, we started thinking about relocating our office from Duluth to somewhere else,” said Jukka Tiitinen, Valmet area president, North America. “To find a new home for our North American headquarters that represents our values and represents the flavor and nature of our company, we took quite a bit of time to go and visit different neighborhoods, different areas and looked at different buildings. And we settled here. …I don’t see how we could have done any better. This is fantastic.”

The company cut the ribbon on its new offices on May 11 with local dignitaries, media and the Valmet CEO Pasi Laine, who came in from Finland for the occasion.

Laine explained how Valmet didn’t have early successes in the North American pulp and paper industry. In 1988, the company had some business interests here, but the capital activities were on the decline and continued that way for decades.

“We weren’t selling too many machines and didn’t have too many partners,” he said, adding that Valmet didn’t give up on North America and kept strengthening the business through several mergers and acquisitions.

Part of the issue, Laine said, was that there were a lot of small businesses in the group that wanted their own processes and procedures. They wanted to maintain their old identity, offices and even logos. “It was practically impossible to get the people even in automation,” he said, adding that the North American customers weren’t seeing any continuity.

But the company continued to invest and improve production through technological advances and a management style that had come together in a “learning cluster” of sorts. Now, 30 years later, Valmet has added some of the state’s and the country’s major players in the industry as partners. Household names like International Paper and Georgia Pacific have Valmet machines and staff working in their plants and mills.

“Now, currently, we have about 2,000 people here, we have big business under civilian revenue and a lot of lot of customers and good personnel as well,” said Laine. “Now we have learned how important it is to work with each other, talk with each other and learn from each other. And I think that’s the big change that has happened over the decades in the company.”

Like-minded neighbors

The collaboration Valmet has seen with Curiosity Lab and other endeavors in Peachtree Corners is the exact business model the company projects. Laine’s interactions with local CEOs have shown that maintaining the status quo isn’t good enough any longer.

“They were saying that it’s not a good strategy anymore just to maintain the old machines and run them out. They started to say that they have to start to invest to make a difference. And today, we have a totally different situation than 10 years ago. Most of our customers are believing that it’s worthwhile to invest in North America,” said Laine.

The company isn’t limited to paper products like tissue, boxes and the like. Valmet is organized around five business lines: services, pulp and energy, paper, automation systems and flow control. The company serves five geographical areas, North America, South America, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), Asia Pacific and China.

With more than 220 years of industrial history, Valmet has a strong track record in continuous improvement and renewal, and has more than 17,000 employees worldwide. The combined company net sales in 2021 were approximately 4.5 billion euros which converts to about $4.7 billion in U.S. currency.

Valmet’s continuing mission is to convert renewable resources into sustainable results. This means that its technology and services make it possible for customers to manufacture sustainable products from renewable resources.

“We believe that technology plays a crucial role to mitigate climate change and global warming. Our target is to enable 100% carbon-neutral production for all our pulp and paper customers by 2030,” according to corporate statements. “We believe that technology plays a key role in mitigating climate change and global warming in the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. Valmet has a long track record in providing solutions that convert biomass into renewable energy and recyclable products such as pulp, paper, board and tissue. We have also developed and commercialized new biomass conversion technologies for producing new bio-based end products such as biogas, biofuels and biomaterials.”

Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason agreed that Valmet fits in with the local business climate of companies that are working to change the world for the better.

“Welcome to the community — and most importantly, thank you for making the decision to come here,” Mason said. “And from talking with your leadership, hearing what you do, you make, what’s important to you about this decision, you made the right decision.”

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

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5 Best Business Strategies for 2024 

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Peachtree Corners Business Association Speaker Series Panel Discuss Issues from AI to Leadership and Staffing

After 30 minutes of networking, light refreshments and ‘death by chocolate’ brownies courtesy of Marlow’s Tavern, the Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA) After Hours Speaker Series Panel commenced.

This panel of local business owners and consultants gathered at the Hilton Atlanta Northeast on Thursday, Oct. 26, to discuss strategies and opportunities for business success in 2024 and beyond.

Moderator Amanda Pearch Marmolejo, owner and President of Forsyth Business Radio X, kicked things off by introducing the panel participants, which included:

From left, Michael Pugh, Rico Figliolini, Lisa Anders, Amanda Pearch Marmolejo, Bill McDermott and Gentry Ganote (photos by Tracey Rice)

1. The importance of cybersecurity for businesses
Cybersecurity remains a top concern for small and medium-sized businesses. In fact, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) recently published Business Impact Report, 73% of 551 surveyed small business owners encountered a cyberattack this year.

As the leader of technology solutions provider Rijoli, Gentry Ganote knows first-hand where businesses are the most vulnerable.

“What we’re seeing is phishing attacks are really the number one nefarious act that’s going on that we deal with on a daily basis. We provide security services for our customers, and we have spam filters and email filters and all kinds of artificial intelligence,” said Ganote.

“But emails still get through, texts get through and people become susceptible to clicking on a link, putting their password in, changing bank records, giving money to the wrong people, and we see it every day,” he added.

“If any of you guys hire interns, you should educate them quickly about scams that are out there. They don’t know they’re new to the workforce,” Ganote explained emphatically.

2. Business succession and exit strategies
As some business owners head toward retirement or strive to preserve their legacy for future generations, transitioning both management and ownership is paramount.

As “The Profitability Coach,” Bill McDermott has consulted many business owners on best executing their succession strategies.

“The particular work for a business owner is number one, identifying that there’s value that can be transferred either to that seller, to the management team or to the outside buyer,” said McDermott.

“Secondly, there’s a growth plan that’s required. Typically, there’s a letter of intent or confidentiality agreement. There are asset purchase agreements, there are representations and warranties, and having an attorney is absolutely critical,” he further explained.

“Selling a business in some ways is also selling real estate, except the numbers are bigger. So, it takes a business broker … it’s a complex transaction, and there are a lot of moving parts, and there are a lot of important people that are part of that,” he added.

3. Leadership, training and staffing

Industries like hospitality are innovating through adversity, developing new training programs to address service staffing shortages exacerbated by the pandemic and aiming to empower front-line employees through direct and tailored instruction.

Lisa Anders, the Executive Director for Explore Gwinnett, Gwinnett County’s official tourism organization, shared her challenges and solutions in this area.

“We’ve been to a hotel recently.  There used to be 30 employees; now there’s 15 employees. And it is just a challenge.  Pre-COVID, we had a full-time education director who worked on training and hospitality training. We had a very robust program … and just now we are reinventing it, and we’re going to roll it out in 24,’ but it’s completely different,” said Anders.

 “We have a lot of research and a lot of conversations with our hotels and our other hospitality departments on the very frontline; the very front desk is the problem. People are under-trained and under motivated. It is just a problem,” she added.

Yet, Explore Gwinnett is taking positive steps forward with its training efforts.

“We’re instituting a new training program. We’re going to be going into every single hotel district … going directly into those hotel districts and doing training one-on-one with our hotel partners and with frontline employees. Our hotels are super excited because it’s not just customer service, it is learning how to de-escalate situations,” Anders explained.

4. Content creation and podcasting
Podcasts have emerged as a powerful tool for storytelling and marketing. Drawing inspiration from a family history in journalism, McDermott leveraged the power of narrative to create a successful podcast that not only celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit but also serves as a cornerstone in his marketing strategy.

“Marketing is the number one weakness in any broken firm,” McDermott said.

“I started a show, we just celebrated our 50th episode, and I was able to tell stories of business owners and professionals that advise them. Three years forward now, my podcast has become actually the linchpin in my marketing strategy. It is the number one thing that I do,” he went on.

“Podcasting is actually a great way to get to know and trust people and a lot of my guests have now become clients,” McDermott added.

Rico Figliolini, the founder of creative services company Mighty Rockets, echoed this sentiment.

“It’s a great way to soft open a prospect. … If you want to get a lead prospect in your industry, you should become that authority of that industry,” said Figliolini.

5. Artificial intelligence and technology

Increasing efficiency while maintaining the human element using AI applications is at the forefront of business strategy heading into 2024.

The legal realm is catching up with AI’s transformative impact. Tools that once seemed futuristic are becoming standard, reshaping how legal professionals approach their work while maintaining the essential human touch through client interactions.

Michael Pugh, an attorney at the law firm of Thompson O’Brien, is witnessing this transition first-hand.

“The legal industry is just starting to incorporate AI … There’s one program called LexisNexis where I can write a legal breach and upload it to Lexis, and it’ll check my cases. It’ll suggest other cases to incorporate; it’ll analyze my arguments and tell me what percentage I’m likely to succeed,” Pugh explained.

“That’s a bit scary, but sometimes it’s pretty cool. So, we’re definitely going to be using more AI, but at the same time, people want to see who they’re working with face-to-face. So, we do meet regularly with our clients,” he added.

The next PCBA Business After Hours Speaker Series will be held on Nov. 16, 2023, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Kathryn Stewart, owner of Performance Trucking, will discuss how she carved out her path as a female executive in a male-dominated industry.

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Gwinnett Chamber to Host Multi-Chamber Mixer

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Join the Gwinnett Chamber on Nov. 1, for a global business mixer at Gas South Convention. Network and celebrate diversity.

The Gwinnett Chamber is set to host the 2023 Multi-Chamber Mixer at After Hours, an end-of-year event designed to celebrate Gwinnett’s inclusive business community.

The program will be held at the Gas South Convention Center on November 1, starting at 5 p.m.

This program brings organizations from around the world together to celebrate Gwinnett’s diverse and international business community.

Partners in this event have historically included business groups such as:

  • The Georgia Indo-American Chamber,
  • Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia,
  • Korean American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia,
  • Latin American Chamber,
  • German American Chamber,
  • French American Chamber,
  • Georgia Hispanic Chamber,
  • Georgia Pakistan Business Council,
  • Liberian Community Association of Georgia,
  • Atlanta Chinese Entrepreneurs Club and
  • the Italy America Chamber Commerce Southeast, Georgia Chapter

“Collaboration with these organizations enables connection and a deeper understanding of business needs in our region,” added Gwinnett Chamber President and CEO Nick Masino. “We are pleased to partner with these entities in hosting an event designed to celebrate our collective success and ever-evolving growth opportunities.”

Registration is required to attend and includes international food tastings, drink tickets and networking with more than 300 business professionals. To register, please visit GwinnettChamber.org/Events.

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Insight Sourcing Unveils Refreshed Brand

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The firm has updated its icon and font and is dropping “Group” from its brand name, previously Insight Sourcing Group.

Insight Sourcing, a North American consulting firm focused exclusively on strategic sourcing and procurement-related services, is marking 21 years of client commitment with a brand refresh.

The firm has updated its visual identity with a new icon and font and is dropping “Group” from its brand name, previously Insight Sourcing Group.

The decision to refresh the brand underscores Insight Sourcing’s dedication to the procurement and sourcing domain.

“Since day one, Insight Sourcing has remained innovative, agile and always ready to leverage market intelligence, and digital assets to meet the ambitious goals of our clients,” said Tom Beaty, CEO of Insight Sourcing.

“We never rest in our pursuit of excellence, and neither should our brand. It reflects our deep appreciation for our past as well as the dynamic nature of our future,” he added.

It’s important to note that this refresh signifies a renewed pledge to clients and their needs. It does not signify a change of ownership or operating structure.

For further details about Insight Sourcing, visit the organization’s website at www.insightsourcing.com.

Read more local business news here.

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