Skellefteå’s successes – a matter of national interest

Northvolt’s decision to establish a mammoth battery factory in Skellefteå, Europe’s largest, has placed the municipality in a unique position. Here in Skellefteå is the municipality where the most per capita investment is being made in all of Sweden, and the investments must be made not only in a socially, financially and environmentally sustainable manner – but also are being done within a very short period of time. This requires interaction and collaboration with various parties at the national, regional and local levels. Kristina Sundin Jonsson, Head of Administration at the Municipality of Skellefteå, talks about how the Municipality is gearing up for the powerful and rapid expansion.

Even before the Northvolt establishment was confirmed, Skellefteå had designed an investment plan aimed at establishing an attractive community with the objective of growing to 80,000 inhabitants by the year 2030. Investments in schools, infrastructure and residential housing, among other things, had been initiated for the purpose of attracting new people to the area.

“All of this turned out to be absolutely crucial. We summed up the strengths of the location, which gave us new power, new self-confidence and additionally allowed us to be much more assertive and go on the offensive. Skellefteå has changed quite a bit recently and the gentrification and investments that took off a couple of years ago is permeated by an open and humble attitude to want to take part in new and sustainable influences,” comments Sundin Jonsson.

In October 2017, Northvolt announced its decision to establish its large-scale battery factory in Skellefteå. This was after an open call for invitations that had put heavy pressure on the municipalities interested in investing in the city.

“There were many of us who worked extremely hard and it was somewhat like working during a crisis. But we had a clear goal and thanks to the dedicated work of many people, the choice fell on us,” remarks a satisfied Sundin Jonsson, who continues:

“We were able to show Northvolt the strengths of our exceptional nature areas and vast raw material resources along with the tradition of the location with a strong base industry that has resulted in the success of many ambitious entrepreneurs. In addition, for several years we have had working together with other parties as something we placed much focus on, which now paid off. Both the business community and neighboring municipalities were willing to assist with creative solutions to Northvolt’s questions and issues, and with the overall package we most likely stood out in the competition.”

Significant investments

Northvolt’s establishment of its factory will eventually create as many as 3,000 new jobs at the factory in Bergsbyn alone and at least as many new recruitments for subcontractors plus jobs in the commercial and public sector.

“It is so incredibly exciting to live and work here right now. Approximately SEK 60 billion will be invested in Skellefteå by 2030 between the public and business sectors, and throughout the northern region. The Västerbotten Chamber of Commerce expects investments to reach SEK 300 billion, which is an unimaginable sum,” comments Sundin Jonsson.

Of course, any establishment of this type obviously requires major adjustments. Representatives from Skellefteå Municipality traveled to the city of Reno, Nevada in spring 2019 and toured the world’s largest battery factory ever built. The reason for this was s to take valuable lessons from their experiences.

“Among other things, they stressed the importance of making sure that residential housing was arranged, an insight that we took home with us. We are planning for 5,000 new residential housing units in the central parts of Skellefteå and 3,000 outside the central part of town. We will build in line with the expectations and the gradual intensification of work that Northvolt has underway and with this we will need to have the business community with us. There is quite a lot of interest from private housing developers who see the uniqueness of our situation. They get the opportunity to be a part of something huge, they respond to the quick decision paths and receive a warm welcome that shows that we really want to have them with us on this journey,” explains Sundin Jonsson.

How the site was marketed

Sustainability permeates the entire process of developing the new Skellefteå and from a financial perspective, the Municipality is well prepared for it.

“We have a tradition of very stable finances and a number of subsidiaries where Skellefteå Kraft is the largest. We have a strong balance sheet and ability to pay, which is a strength that creates credibility with such a new establishment and when community is to be built up in such a short period of time. The same as with all other municipalities, we of course face challenges including demographics, but we have a strong and stable financial situation and will continue to have it in the future as well,” notes Sundin Jonsson.

The availability of skilled workers is a priority issue for most employers in the region. In this regard, Skellefteå works on several fronts to attract people to the location.

“We have a public sector and a broad business community with both traditional and new industries, all of which offer interesting and engaging employment. We have an attractive city in close proximity to both urban and rural areas, which establishes the preconditions for participation in recreational activities and a good life. We work closely with the companies to find out what skills they need, and what work needs to be done in terms of education to make sure that is available, and then work together with the university so that it will also be able to benefit from all the investment that is being made and attract students and researchers to come here,” explains Sundin Jonsson.

Everyone has their eyes on Skellefteå

An increasing number of visits from Government ministers and visits from other parties working on the national level, such as research institutes and universities, are proof of the attractiveness that Skellefteå has right now.

“It is understood from a national perspective that this establishment needs to succeed. This means that we can establish a model for how to work elsewhere in Sweden with similar initiatives and investments, and attract other major companies to make investments in the country,” notes Sundin Jonsson, who continues:

“Everyone has understood what is happening in Skellefteå and in our region, which has placed a greater focus on the whole of northern Sweden. Infrastructure investments such as the high-speed North Bothnia Railway Line, the E4, and the airport are incredibly important so that people will be easily to be able to travel to and from here. In this regard, our discussions with the regional and national parties are significant and I hope for good progress in those discussions.”

In brief: The Head of Administration on Skellefteå’s rapid expansion

  • The establishment of Northvolt’s battery factory requires major adjustments in Skellefteå. There are plans for 8,000 new residential housing units in and outside the central part of town and Skellefteå Municipality is working on several fronts to attract people with the right skills to our location. “We have a public sector and a broad business community, which all offer interesting and engaging employment. We have an attractive city that establishes the preconditions for a wide range of recreational activities and a good life. We collaborate with the university and work closely with the companies to find out their needs in terms of staff with particular l education or training,” observes Kristina Sundin Jonsson.
  • Sundin Jonsson has seen after Northvolt’s establishment an increased national interest in Skellefteå and a greater focus on the whole of northern Sweden. “It is understood from a national perspective that this establishment needs to succeed. This means that we can establish a model for how to work elsewhere in Sweden with similar initiatives and investments, and attract other major companies to make investments in the country,” notes Sundin Jonsson.

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