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To recover from the crisis, we will focus on assisting SMEs in internationalization, digitalization and the green transition

To recover from the crisis, we will focus on assisting SMEs in internationalization, digitalization and the green transition

An interview with Thomas Kastrup-Larsen, the Mayor of Aalborg in Denmark

Thomas Kastrup-Larsen has a master’s degree in public administration from Aalborg University. In 1998, he became a member of the City Council and worked as a Councillor of health and Sustainable Development for the Social Democrats from 2007 to 2013. In 2014, he assumed office and became the Mayor of Aalborg.

In 2019, he spoke to TheMayor.EU and discussed the municipality, its projects, and sustainability goals. Moreover, he shared various achievements and good practices from Aalborg. The full interview can be read on our website. 

Now, the Mayor has shared the struggles and successes of Aalborg throughout the past year, since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Mr. Mayor, could you describe how Aalborg has been affected by the COVID outbreak throughout the past year?

We have been seriously affected but maybe not as much as other regions in Europe. Our unemployment rate is, of January 2021, 17% higher than at the beginning of 2020. This is around 1000 more unemployed this year compared to last year, but this is lower rise than in the rest of Denmark.

The building and construction sector has been doing very well during the crisis and many companies are running as usual and have even expanded their business. But especially the retail and restaurant sectors have been severely affected.

More specifically, considering that Aalborg is a university city, how has the community been impacted?

There has been a challenge for the graduates to find jobs. A large part of the unemployed are graduates. One initiative that has been made to address this is a 4-week internship – where businesses in the whole municipality are encouraged to take an intern. This was a success in the 2nd half of 2020.

It has also been a challenge to find internships for skilled workers and students – but in close cooperation between companies and the technical schools, solutions have been found.

What measures have you implemented and found to be most effective against the spread of the virus? Moreover, how have you managed to persuade the city’s residents to cooperate and comply with these regulations?

We have followed the national advice and regulations – and recommend working from home if at all possible. Furthermore, we have been in dialogue with local communities with various ethnic backgrounds to ensure translation of guidelines as well and having moveable test facilities in order to get out to all communities.

The citizens, in general, follow the guidelines from the government – so there has been no need for extra national actions.

Do you have any specific projects and plans for the recovery of the city post-COVID?

The government distributed “Re-start” funds to be given to the branches in need – the local shops and restaurants. These funds are aimed at attracting people to the shops and restaurants again in a safe way. The exact use is being planned in the near future.

In addition to this, our business development strategy will focus on assisting our SMEs in internationalization, digitalization and the green transition – since this is the way forward and out of the crisis.

The close cooperation with the knowledge institutions on getting the graduates into employment will continue and will have increased focus on the rest of 2021.

What would you say has been your biggest achievement since the pandemic began and what did you find most challenging?

It has been a challenge to balance our efforts in helping our SMEs – on the one hand mobilizing the workforce in the branches that have been busy during corona vs assisting the branches that have suffered. This has been a balance that we are still trying to address.

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