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    He believes in a Biarritz in Schleswig-Holstein


    The man who wrested 902 million euros from Germany now needs a few nuts. It's a March evening in Hamburg. Peter Carlsson has had a long day and he hasn't eaten much. Early on the program: sports with Daniel Günther, the Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein. The joint jogging session led over the windy Büsum dike, and that too. But Carlsson likes wind, and of course all of this had symbolic significance: the head of the Northvolt company handles even adverse conditions with nimbleness.

    Peter Mikael Carlsson, 53 years old, is the great hope of Schleswig-Holstein. The federal and state governments have released 902 million euros in subsidies and guarantees so that he can build electric car batteries in the Dithmarschen district from 2026 onwards. The energy for Northvolt comes from the wind turbines that are plentiful here. It is an enormous investment; at least 3,000 jobs are expected to be created. But how does the Swede want to attract skilled workers to the countryside?

    Carlsson, almost two meters tall and lanky, is now standing in the Hamburg Club of Business Journalists after the construction site opened at five degrees in Lohe-Rickelshof. He says: He was thinking about how the region could be turned into “a kind of Biarritz of Schleswig-Holstein.” could do. Big laughter in the room. Carlsson looks confused, why so much skepticism? That would be something: installing batteries in the morning, surfing in Büsum or St. Peter-Ording in the afternoon. You just have to wrap up a little warmer than on the Atlantic.

    In high school he advertises for potential workers

    It's a big declaration of love that Carlsson Schleswig-Holstein is making these days. And he would probably appear and act completely differently if he hadn't worked at Tesla a few years ago. He came with a lot of experience and even more contacts: he worked for Sony Ericsson for 13 years, then at the semiconductor manufacturer NXP Semiconductors in Singapore. From 2011 onwards, he worked at Tesla in California, was head of purchasing for the car manufacturer and was responsible for setting up the supply chains for the factory in Nevada. “I would never have started my own company if I hadn't been there,” he says, it was an educational time. After almost five years, Carlsson left because the stress had become too much for him. But then he got a call from Sweden from financial investor Carl-Erik Lagercrantz, who wanted to convince him to build a battery factory in Europe. Carlsson brought Paolo Cerutti, a confidant from Tesla, to his side, and in 2016 the time had come to found the company.

    Criticism of the controversial boss Elon Musk cannot escape Carlsson's lips. “We don't pay too much attention to what Tesla is doing,” says Germany boss Christofer Haux. But it is clear that they are very aware of what their competitors are doing when it comes to e-mobility in Germany. In Grünheide in Brandenburg there are repeated protests from the population, in the Dithmarschen district concerns have so far been limited. From Carlsson's point of view, this is also the case because up here in the north they treat nature more kindly.

    Northvolt boss Peter Carlsson: Northvolt presents itself as an employer.  Company boss Peter Carlsson (center) and Daniel Günther (right), Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein, visiting the Werner-Heisenberg-Gymnasium.  Student Bruno Jeche shows them the star system, built from Lego bricks.

    Northvolt presents itself as an employer. Company boss Peter Carlsson (center) and Daniel Günther (right), Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein, visiting the Werner-Heisenberg-Gymnasium. Student Bruno Jeche shows them the star system, built from Lego bricks.

    (Photo: Marcus Brandt/dpa)

    Instead of ensuring enormous water consumption like Tesla, Northvolt wants to use treated wastewater from the municipal utilities and make the residual heat available for the district heating network. This creates more acceptance among the population, who are already experiencing a company boss who wants to integrate. He is the anti-Musk, unpretentious, approachable. When the start of construction was celebrated on Monday, Northvolt put the mayors of the small communities of Lohe-Rickelshof and Norderwöhrden in the front row. At the side of Olaf Scholz, Robert Habeck and Daniel Günther.

    You can find all of this transparent, ingratiating – or just clever. Which company bosses already do what Carlsson does? There are pictures of him harvesting red cabbage, and he has registered as a member of the local Boßelverein. Instead of a groundbreaking ceremony, he chose a ball throwing event from the traditional Nordic sport to start construction. He attended a technical college and a high school in Heide to introduce himself as an employer; sat with eleventh grade students and solicited their interest. “Finding employees will be one of the big challenges of this project,” he says. At the ceremony, he specifically addressed the talents that the region once had: “I call out to all Schleswig-Holsteiners who have left their country for work and a career: Please come back!” And then Carlsson also specifically advertised to get young women interested in engineering careers. You don't experience this that often, and in Dithmarschen it's even rarer.

    Carlsson has learned that a project like his only works if he gets as many people as possible on board. Before Heide, there was the factory in Skellefteå in Sweden, which he built in a similarly structurally weak area. “We learned that with a factory like this you are also building a kind of ecosystem, and it is very important to work with the community and be transparent,” says Carlsson. The city has gained over 4,000 new residents since then, but there is a lack of living space. One of several problems that will also affect Dithmarschen. That's why the boss talks a lot to all kinds of places; he knows that he can't be successful alone.

    An avalanche almost cost Carlsson his life

    In Sweden, Carlsson has long been considered one of the country's most important entrepreneurs; in 2022, King Carl Gustaf invited him to an audience: The Northvolt boss was awarded the gold medal from the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering for his “outstanding entrepreneurship, leadership qualities and ability to innovate.” . With investors such as Goldmann Sachs and Volkswagen, he has important supporters at his side who believe in his conviction: that they can produce a green battery cost-effectively in Europe despite the superiority of Chinese manufacturers.

    Carlsson has already found out that it won't be a sure-fire success: Last year, production in Sweden fell well behind plans due to delivery problems. “There will always be setbacks,” says Carlsson, but he believes in his path. “There is a great need among our customers because we produce the batteries that will be installed in the next generation of their cars,” he says. He has already raised more than $13 billion in equity and debt capital for his project and planned expansions.

    Perhaps just one anecdote is enough to understand the motivation with which he pursues his mission: in 2017, Carlsson was hit by an avalanche and buried during a skiing holiday in Canada. When he was found, he had to be resuscitated. The entrepreneur once said this on Swedish radio, but he doesn't peddle it. After the experience, it was clear to him what he wanted to leave the world.

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