Estonian Wooden Houses Cluster arranged a study visit to Latvia
14. October 2014

Estonian Wooden Houses Cluster (EWHC) arranged a tour to Latvia for wooden houses manufactures. During the three-day visit Estonians had a possibility to visit local businesses and create contacts. A seminar on European support actions was held in cooperation of EWHC and Latvian Wood Construction Cluster.

„The cooperation of the two clusters is built upon the expertise of traditional loghouse building,“ said the manager of the EWHC Lauri Kivil. Last summer already the fourth vocational competition of loghome builders took place in Räpina and there are no other similar contests in other Baltic States or Scandinavia. „Latvians had a great interest in this and although they could not participate this year, contact was established and plans for future were made,“ told Kivil. The first step in joint activities was the study tour in the end of September.  

Elari Kivisoo, the CEO of AS Ritsu , was convinced that the cooperation between the clusters of two countries is important: „ Even if at some point we are rivals, we still have what to learn from each other.“

„If we look at the export volumes of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian wooden houses manufactures, we see quite a difference. Estonian export volume is over 200 million, Lithuanian 80 and Latvian 40 million euros in a year,“ explained Kivil. „Although the industry is young in Latvia , they produce quality houses. We expect a great rise in wooden houses sector in the near future in Latvia,“ told Kivil.

There are also differences in the ownership structure of the companies in Latvia which facilitates access to different markets. The CEO of Varola OÜ, Toomas Heering mentioned that finding good new sales channels is complicated in Estonia. „The companies we visited in Latvia seemed not to have such a problem. Perhaps this was due the fact that most of companies belonged to the foreign investors,“ argued Heering. In Estonia, most of the companies in the sector are owned by Estonian investors, but in Latvia 70% of businesses belong to foreign investors.

„The interest of the owners and the business contacts in their home country have made unreachable markets easily accessible for Latvians,“ said Kivil and named the UK, Belgium and Russian markets where Estonians have not been very successful so far.

“The general impression was positive- facilities, working conditions, all looked fine,“   said Kivil.

One of the factories Estonians visited was only few years old. As it was designed as a house-factory and provided a good example on how the supportive environment can facilitate daily operations. „Most of our factories are re-adjusted from the old soviet industrial buildings.  In those conditions an extra amount of time and money has spent for logistics. In a new, modern factory you do not have those problems. The work process is much more effective,“ said Heering.

The CEO of the architectural agency TEMPT Mihkel Urmet told, that this trip gave him several reasons to go back in the future. „The experiments  and tests for using the log on alternate ways made by the company Dores were impressive,“ said Urmet and confined that in every company-visit there was something special to remember, was it then untraditional use of the material or job management.“

EWHC has arranged several study tours in past years with the goal to strengthen the existing markets and to find new sales partners and channels.

„The trip to Latvia showed us that our neighbours are willing to produce a quality product,“ said Kivil. „And without a doubt the Latvian State has a role in it thanks to support actions for purchasing modern equipment.“

The visit was supported by European Regional Development Fund through cluster development program of Enterprise Estonia in the frames of "Estonian Wooden Houses Exporters Cluster Project".