mid-Jutland, a propaganda commission formed in 1931
with the explicit ambition of promoting local industries.
More such initiatives were taken in the following decades.
A decisive step was taken in 1957, when a short pamphlet
entitled “The future of western Jutland” was published by
a group of west Jutlanders led by Gunnar Andreasen. The
pamphlet was later known as the VJ plan, or the W (V)
Jutland plan. This plan soon came to have a tremendous
effect, as it saw many similar initiatives around the country,
and more importantly triggered the process which in a short
time secured the passing of the law on regional development.
Scrutinising the effects of this law in the following decades,
three case studies from the so-called underdeveloped regions
of Denmark have been included in the present article: The
Skaw, Hjørring and Esbjerg.
When the law on regional development was passed
in 1958, the Skaw was a society totally dominated by the
fishing industry. Close to two thirds of all inhabitants gained
their living via fishing, and this had been the traditional
status for centuries. In the 1950s and for the major part
of the 1960s fishing was good, and the incentives for new
developments were minimal in the Skaw. Few regional
development initiatives were thus taken. This changed in
the early 1970s, when the economics of the fishery were
put under pressure. Tradition nevertheless prevailed, as the
still economically strong players within the fishing sector
managed to exert full control over all regional development
initiatives. The result was a pouring of regional development
funds into the existing fishing industry, and only a few new
initiatives outside the industry. InHjørring,which for decades
had survived on its major upland, the rationalisations in the
agricultural sector forced the city council and other players
to realise that if Hjørring was to maintain its position, it
had to be able to attract the residual workforce from the
surrounding rural areas into industrial production. By the
mid-1960s, it was therefore decided to promote Hjørring
as an industry-friendly city with rich opportunities for
expanding businesses. With cross-sectoral efforts, private
business entrepreneurs and the municipality combing their
forces, Hjørring succeeded in implementing a successful
plan which, within a few years, placed the city in the leading
position in terms of regional development. In the case of
Esbjerg, things developed quite differently compared to
the Skaw and Hjørring. Esbjerg, like the Skaw, was heavily
dependent on fishing, but by the late 1930s an idea had
already been formulated to make the city and the region less
dependent on fishing. When the regional development law
was passed this was still the ambition, despite the fact that
fishing was prospering. Regional development funds might
have been able to provide alternative options to fishing,
but in fact it was the lack of regional funding, combined
with a few other factors, which managed to facilitate this.
In the early years Esbjerg was fully entitled to regional
development funds, but by the late 1960s the opportunities
were already reduced, and in 1981 Esbjerg was no longer
entitled to receive regional development funds from the
Danish state. If Esbjerg was to survive it had to do so on
its own means, which meant oil and gas. This development
perhaps proved lucky, as the rise of the oil and gas industry
meant that a lot of the players from the traditional maritime
sectors who lost their jobs could be employed in this sector,
and at the same time the rise of a new and more advanced
industry meant that new expertise was developed, helping to
develop the whole region.
The different approaches to regional development in the
Skaw, Hjørring and Esbjerg meant dissimilar results. The
approaches also carried with them different types of path
dependency, which can be seen to have modern reflections.
In the post-millennium era the Skaw is struggling with its
dependence on fishing, as the industry is in a continuous
downward spiral. Hjørring, on the other hand, has come to
be a vibrant regional power centre, offering an affluent vari-
ety of shopping and even functioning as an attractive place
for young people to settle. Esbjerg has transformed itself
from a city dominated by the fisheries to one of the offshore
capitals of the North Sea, in the process securing openness
to the surrounding society and a rise in the level of educa-
tion, thereby paving the way for the future.
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