Hero is Scandinavia’s largest operator of reception centers, with dozens of reception centers in Norway and Sweden. Hero also provide language services and course centers for minorities in Norway and Sweden, as well as several kindergartens in Norway. It has been a long and exciting journey from the beginning in September 1987.
The idea of a reception center enterprise started with an initiative from the entrepreneurs Helge Raknes and Ronald Tuft. They heard that the municipality of Bergen had difficulties accommodating Chilean refugees coming to Bergen. A few days later, their real estate company Hero Eiendom had rented an apartment building in Ytre Arna and started up a reception center. The building still houses asylum seekers to this day.
Ahmed Bozgil develops the organization
The large arrivals of refugees continued, and in 1993 Dale reception center was established in Sandnes. It was a young and ambitious Kurdish journalist named Ahmed Bozgil who got the job as center manager. Over the next few years he became a key person in the development of Hero as an organization and the Norwegian reception system at large. In 1996 he was appointed CEO, and he was a leading figure unifying the company until his passing in 2013.
Ahmed came to Norway as a political refugee from Turkey in 1986 and had clear ideas and visions about how a reception center should be run. With a background in politics, communication and journalism, and a unique ability to make people pull in the same direction, he developed Dale in a new direction.
He came into the industry with the ambition to provide residents with more responsibilities and opportunities. In cooperation with The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI), resident participation was tried out in Dale. The concept is today an important methodological element and a government requirement in Norwegian reception centers.
A national operator comes to life
In 1995, the year after receiving 12,000 refugees, mostly Bosnians, there was a dramatic nationwide downsizing of reception centers. Of the six centers that Hero had established during these years, only Dale survived and could secure further progress for a weakened organization.
The arrival of asylum seekers increased over the following years. Especially the many Kurds from Iraq and the Kosovo refugees in 1999 became a challenge for the capacity of Norwegian reception centers. In the years leading up to 2000, Hero managed to establish itself in all the country’s regions with a total of 16 centers and thus take another step towards becoming a leading operator. Hero saw the importance of giving children good childhoods in reception centers and therefore also established several officially approved kindergartens with a multicultural profile.
In 2000 there was a major and important change in ownership of Hero. One of the main shareholders retired and sold the shares, which then accounted for 50 percent of the ownership, to ISS. Their entry into Hero opened new opportunities in business development, especially in terms of finance and administration systems, training, economies of scale and a professional board. The company grew to over 300 employees and a total of 25 reception centers across the country in 2003.
New areas within the business are established
In 2005 Hero Tolk was established as a new business area and thereafter Hero Kompetanse in 2006. Establishing new business areas created engagement and excitement within the company in relation to how to succeed in completely new markets. We succeeded by further developing our expertise within the field of minority language-speakers and integration into these new markets.
Hero’s professional engagement in the area of reception centers attracted international interest, and in 2005 Hero accepted the offer to represent Norway in the Enaro network (European Network of Asylum Reception organizations).
In 2008 and 2009 the arrivals of asylum seekers escalated again. Hero took an active role and increased the capacity with 6,000 new reception center beds. The organization grew fast during 2009 and passed 1,200 employees, 45 reception centers and 16 sections for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers.
The explosive growth entailed extensive training of new employees and guidance. The company invested heavily in HSE, and in 2011 Hero introduced courses in conflict management for employees, in addition to a new and groundbreaking deviation system to ensure better and safer workplaces for their employees.
New management and ownership takes over
In 2013 Hero experienced a huge blow to the company when Ahmed Bozgil passed away after a period of illness. Tor Brekke took over the helm as CEO. Moving forward the company focusing on quality, resources of diversity, and resident participation. At the same time, Hero continued towards further growth and internationalization in all business areas.
In 2014 the brothers Roger and Kristian Adolfsen bought the majority of the shares from ISS and Ronald Tuft through their company Hospitality Invest. The change of ownership resulted in continued growth in Norway and the establishment of Hero Sverige the same year. The major European refugee crisis in 2015 contributed to the establishment of several thousand new spaces at Hero reception centers in Norway and Sweden.