by Joan Tupponce
Fred Stewart didn’t understand the status of the Swedish pop music group ABBA until he visited Stockholm. Now, he knows more than he ever imagined about the group, which became famous in the mid-1970s.
“In Stockholm it’s everything ABBA,” says Stewart, who is business manager of Virginia Beach-based VSD LLC, a performance improvement/work-force development company. “There’s even a sightseeing tour with an ABBA lookalike singing to you as you see the sights.”
Stewart was in Stockholm this summer to attend ITEC 2008, an international conference devoted to defense training, simulation and education. The three-day event drew representatives from 45 countries.
VSD exhibited its computer-based training capabilities and its ViloEnterprise Training Development Software Suite. The company also unveiled its magazine toan international audience. “We went to ITEC to get a better understanding of how senior officials and procurement officers operate in the international military and defense industry,” Stewart explains. “We met companies from all over Europe and the Middle East.”
VSD is a participant in the Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) program. For the next two years, the company will work with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to increase its international business. “We’ve already traveled to Sweden and Saudi Arabia,” Stewart says. “We are extremely confident we will be working in Egypt, as well.”
The Stockholm trip was critical to the company’s growth plan. “It set us up for success in the Middle East,” Stewart says. “We met representatives from the Saudi Arabia Business Council as well as the U.S. Embassy and business figures in Riyadh and Dammam [the capital of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province].”
Stockholm made an impression on the former naval officer. The Swedish capital is a modern city with a 700-year history. Stockholm, which borders the Northern Baltic Sea, includes 14 islands. “Stockholm is a water city,” Stewart says. “You can tour the city on a glass-enclosed river barge.”
On his visit, Stewart found that he had to adjust not only to the cooler climate but also the length of the days. “In June the sun comes up really early, around 3 a.m.,” he says. “It stays up until almost midnight.”
One of Stewart’s favorite sites in the city was the 609-room Royal Palace, the Swedish monarch’s official residence. “It’s phenomenal,” he says. “It’s the largest palace in Northern Europe.”
Stewart also enjoyed the old town portion of the city, Gamla Stan. The area’s busy, narrow streets are filled with shops, pubs and restaurants. “It’s a great place to find unique gifts,” he says. “I picked up some letter openers that are replicas of Nordic swords.”
The city’s economy
Because it is the capital of Sweden, Stockholm is the country’s largest municipality with a population of almost 800,000. In 2007, the greater Stockholm area had a population of almost 2 million. The largest employment sector in Stockholm is the service industry, which provides about 85 percent of local jobs. The city has seen a rise in high-technology companies, as well. Stockholm’s largest employers include the telecommunications company Ericsson with almost 8,500 employees and finance group Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) with more than 4,000 workers. Stockholm is also the headquarters of H&M, a popular international clothing retailer. Other top employers include IBM Svenska and Sodexho, a leading provider of food and facilities. Because it doesn’t have
large industries that pollute the air, Stockholm is considered one of the cleanest cities in the world.
Where to eat
One of the grandest restaurants in Stockholm is Operakallaren, which has a view of the Royal Palace. The restaurant features modern cuisine and an extensive wine list. Den Gyldene Freden, which dates back to the 18th century, is another popular eatery. For seafood, Wedholms Fisk offers fresh turbot and pike perch. The elegant inn Edsbacka Krog serves Swedish and French cuisine while Divino Ristorante offers some of the city’s best Italian dishes.
Where to stay
On his visit to Stockholm, Stewart stayed at The Scandic Hotel. The furnishings were minimal and utilitarian but the food was plentiful, he says. “The hotel has a wonderful Swedish smorgasbord with everything from Swedish meatballs and cereals to fruits and pickled herring.” If you prefer luxury, book a few nights at the Intercontinental Grand Hotel, one of the city’s leading hotels. The 130-year old establishment sits along the city’s waterfront and serves as the hotel for Nobel Prize laureates. The five-star First Hotel Reisen offers a selection of harborfront rooms, some featuring private saunas and Jacuzzis.