HANCOCK, Mich. (WLUC) - Finlandia University welcomed Juha Vidgren to campus on Wednesday. Vidgren is chairman of the board for Ponsse, a Finnish based forestry equipment manufacturer. Vidgren told students the history of his company, from when his father founded it 49 years ago, to now. A lot has changed since then, but the principals the company was founded on remain.
"The most important everyday decision you make is the values that you build your company on,” said Vidgren. “We live by those values in our company because that is how you choose the right people to work for the company."
Ponsse began and is still headquartered in a village of less than 4,000 people. Today they have more than 12,000 machines operating in 40 different countries. Vidgren says this is possible through communication. He says for any business to have success, they must have a great relationship with their customers and their employees.
"You need to know the people, and if you know them and have relations to go fishing, or hunting, or whatever, it always helps, because when you know the people, you know that you can trust them," said Vidgren.
Ponsse opened a North American headquarters in Rhinelander, Wisconsin more than 20 years ago, and have sold products all across the Upper Peninsula. The community has been excited to support a Finnish company.
"What's really interesting about them is their unique company culture and their values and how they used those values to become a global leader in their field," said Kevin Manninen, president of the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce.
For the past five years Finlandia has had a student spend a summer learning at the Rhinelander location as well as the headquarters in Finland. This program does more than just help the students.
"They have a great energy and I have to say that we have had a lot of great personalities come through every year,” said Vidgren. “It helps us Finnish people because we're a little shy and quiet, but then having the young guys come to work, they start to talk, ask questions, and that's a really good influence for all of us."
Ponsse will be celebrating their 50th anniversary next year, and in 2018 was named the most reputable company in Finland by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä.