What is a development agency?

Development agencies are municipality-owned non-profit organisations that work to increase the growth and competitiveness of a region’s enterprises and consequently boost the region’s prosperity. The activities of a development agency are based on knowledge of the region and its enterprises, long customer relationships, know-how and the mandate of municipal owners. Development agencies implement undertakings that would not otherwise be started and that are significant for creating a better operating environment for the region’s enterprises.

Main tasks of business and
development agencies

Business development

Development agencies support businesses at all stages of their operations; from sparring on business ideas, setting up a business, to various services for an active company and changes in ownership. The development agency is a long-term, close partner with familiar faces for the company – a partner which may also refer a company to other public and private business development and financing services. The increasing transition of business services to become digitalised online underlines the importance of a personalised service from the development agency.

Developing the operational environment

The development agency identifies broader themes or opportunities (infrastructure, regional special know-how, business groups, natural resources, geographical locations, events, large projects, etc.) for developing the region, and brings business groups, networks, cooperation and projects together around them. The result is a more competitive business environment and after the project phase, commercial players take over operations. The role of the development agency is to network the different players in the region; being impartial and promoting the interests of the region, it is natural for the development agency to act as an innovator and leader of various joint projects.

Regional marketing

Marketing the region as an area worth investing in and attracting businesses by highlighting the benefits of the region in business transactions is a task of every development agency. The development agency also assists settling companies in finding premises, labour, partners and with permits, among other things. For companies establishing themselves in Finland from abroad, there is a close cooperation with Invest in Finland, with the development agency providing a soft landing platform for companies in its own region.

Many development agencies are also involved in tourism marketing, often carried out on a region-by-region basis in cooperation with businesses and national operators such as Visit Finland.

Labour needs of businesses

Under the TE24 reform, employment and business services will be transferred to the municipalities. In the new structure, the development agencies will play a significant role in bringing the labour and training needs of companies to the attention of the labour authorities and, furthermore, in helping companies with recruitment issues.

Ownership and financing

A development agency is usually owned by one or several municipalities.

Core funding is based on municipal funding, which averages €26 per resident, and development agencies also leverage municipal funding as a self-financed share of project work, often at a ratio of 1:4 or 5. The average turnover of a development agency in the SEKES network is approximately €2 million.


Take part in conversation on SEKES LinkedIn.