Green preconditions establish unique growth possibilities

The Skellefteå region continues on its path to be one of the most attractive in Europe. With a robust electricity grid and almost unlimited access to renewable energy, the municipality attracts electricity-intensive industry and newly-developing industries. Christoffer Svanberg at Node Pole firmly believes that Skellefteå is a unique place in Europe right now. This is the start of a whole new era.

Skellefteå and northern Sweden are hot. A number of industries in the world are growing rapidly, and common to them is the need for a lot of energy, renewable energy, something that is plentiful in the Skellefteå region. Christoffer Svanberg is Marketing Manager and Chief Communications Officer at Node Pole, a company that works to bring large industrial establishments to Sweden. Node Pole is a joint venture between Vattenfall and Skellefteå Kraft, which in 2016 took over the then publicly-owned company for the purpose of scaling up attempts to attract electricity-intensive industry to northern Sweden.

“Sweden is a strong industrial nation with exceptional access to various raw materials, a good transportation infrastructure, residents with marketable skills, and a well-functioning labor market. Our assigned task is to attract these industries and make them want to establish a presence in Sweden.”

“However, usually Sweden is not at the top of the list of potential countries when large multinationals are looking for new places to establish new facilities or business operations. But this is changing,” notes Christoffer Svanberg.

“It’s driven by the major investment decisions of recent years, where corporate giants such as Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Amazon have chosen to invest in Sweden. This attracts attention from others and spreads like ripples on the water. The trend is based on two things: Sweden’s good preconditions and the preparatory work that has been done to attract these companies here.”

Regional supply chain

Northvolt’s establishment of its factory in Sweden is a result of this. The company’s investment in Skellefteå, approx. SEK 30 billion, and the establishment of the factory with 3,000 new jobs, represent a change for the whole of northern Sweden.

“Nothvolt’s approach focuses on building the world’s greenest batteries. To succeed in this, there is a need for subcontractors to supply Northvolt’s factory in Skellefteå. And so that the production will be as green as Northvolt desires, the subcontractors need to be located in the immediate vicinity. The Skellefteå region has the companies that are needed for the needed supply chain,” observes Svanberg.

The municipality’s long-successful industrial operations, within several large and complex industries, is a huge advantage in this context, points out Svanberg.

“This establishes the perfect preconditions. For one thing, there are exceptional skills and expertise is here, and it will become even more mobile between companies and different industries over time, and additionally there is an understanding at regional level of what it means to operate a large industrial company. And on top of this, there is understanding among the wider general public.”

Preconditions for green investments

Ten years ago, the climate change issue was not on the agenda, today all companies need to respond to climate change issues in order to be competitive in the long term. Northern Sweden’s capacity and our robust electricity networks and electrical grids allow us to obtain energy to a sufficient extent. For an electricity-intensive industry, northern Sweden is therefore an extremely apocopate place to locate, with its almost unlimited access to energy, which additionally is completely renewable and green.

“Green, sustainable investments require certain preconditions. Northern Sweden’s two basic preconditions are among the best in Europe. We are among the localities with the lowest energy costs plus have perhaps the most sustainable energy in the whole of Europe. There will be a double gain for the companies that set up operations here, partly for their profits and partly for long-term sustainability,” observes Svanberg.

Mineral extraction and the possibilities make good use of scrap metal is another industry that has long been strong in northern Sweden and has put the region on the map.

“Boliden, LKAB, SSAB and Vattenfall are investing enormous sums that promote ambitious development plans in Swedish industrial development and sustainable manufacturing of steel. These companies are excellent role models internationally, they strengthen the brand Sweden. Our country is extremely progressive from a global perspective, and these companies are huge drivers promoting development. They are an inspiration to all of us,” comments Svanberg.

World change climate gain

Christoffer Svanberg points out that Skellefteå is a key in this context. With the preconditions we have, he thinks it is our obligation to use these and do good things for our region, and for Sweden.

“If we look at what we as a country can do in the challenges that the climate change problem presents, our possibilities to attract international companies and get them to build their business operations here are huge. It’s the world’s climate change gain. We as a country can contribute with huge environmental benefits by welcoming these companies to Sweden and in turn Skellefteå can earn a financial profit from it.”

The challenges with rapid growth

Skellefteå is growing with large investments over a relatively short period of time. Svanberg sees Northvolt’s setting up operations here as the start of a whole new era. Not only in terms of future establishments of new operations by additional industrial companies, but also in terms of what needs to happen in the community as a whole to accommodate everything that is happening.

“We are used to doing things in a certain way and at a certain pace, but now suddenly everything needs to go really fast. I want to convey that in this region, we are the ‘smith’ of our own success. It is about time that we looked at ourselves as one of Europe’s most interesting developing regions. Right now it is a matter of getting prepared, and then later acting.”

The construction of residential housing is one of the challenges of the current growth phase. New residents will place stringent demands on their housing. Svanberg wants to see a smorgasbord of housing possibilities on offer and urges the banks as lenders to take a more flexible approach.

“It really is not possible to rely on old models around credit assessments and things like that. This is a truly unique place in Europe right now, as the next 30 years will see tremendous growth. It’s not going to end in five years and then go back to normal. The positive spiral that Skellefteå is right now is about to enter will not stop; it will continue to be a force that is self-perpetuating. The Skellefteå region will continue to be one of the most exciting in Sweden and Europe.”

In brief: Svanberg on investing in the Skellefteå region

  • “Green, sustainable investments require certain preconditions. Northern Sweden’s two basic preconditions are among the best in Europe. We are among the localities with the lowest energy costs plus have perhaps the most sustainable energy in the whole of Europe. There will be a double gain for the companies that set up operations here, partly for their profits and partly for long-term sustainability,” comments Svanberg.
  • “A number of industries in the world are growing rapidly, and common to them is the need for a lot of energy, renewable energy, something that is plentiful in the Skellefteå region. The municipality’s long-successful industrial companies, within several large and complex industries, is also a huge advantage in this context,” Svanberg points out. “There are exceptional skills and expertise in the region it will become even more mobile between companies and type of industry over time.”
  • The construction of residential housing is one of the challenges of the current growth phase. Christoffer Svanberg urges banks to take a more flexible approach as lenders: “It really is not possible to rely on old models around credit assessments and the like anymore. This is a truly unique place in Europe right now, as the next 30 years will see tremendous growth. It’s not going to end in five years and then go back to normal. The positive spiral that Skellefteå is right now is about to enter will not stop; it will continue to be a force that is self-perpetuating. The Skellefteå region will continue to be one of the most exciting in Sweden and Europe.”

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