The establishment of the Northvolt battery factory is creating ripple effects throughout Skellefteå Municipality. A construction boom, investments in infrastructure and great faith in the future are following in the wake of the factory’s construction – a “Northvolt effect”.
“This benefits everyone,” says Sofia Lindström of the Västerbotten Chamber of Commerce.
In the Bergsbyn industrial area, Europe’s largest battery factory is taking shape. The factory is being built in stages and it is expected to be fully expanded by 2023. Today Northvolt has about twenty employees on-site, and by 2025 it expects this number to grow to 3000 employees.
But the establishment of the factory extends far beyond the people who get jobs there. It is energizing subcontractors and start-ups, sparking a construction boom for residential properties, and a creating a sense that Skellefteå Municipality has the wind in its sails.
This is the view of Lars Westin, a professor of regional economics who also works at the Center for Regional Sciences at Umeå University.
“On the one hand, there is a direct effect. A construction project has been launched that is generating business in the municipality. The market and people are getting a signal that there could be jobs here. Then there are also indirect effects. There will be more people and more money in circulation, via hotels and trade, among others,” he says.
“Investing in the long-term”
One person who has noticed this is the ICA shopkeeper Joacim Nilsson, who is currently re-establishing and expanding the ICA Supermarket in central Skellefteå. The shop will have a more modern premises at CK-gallerian. “I think you can tell that both the municipality and private actors want to take advantage of the opportunities that Northvolt brings with it. They’re investing in the long-term, to try to meet the needs that exist while also taking advantage of the opportunities,” he says.
Kristina Sundin Jonsson is the Municipal Director of Skellefteå. She has a hectic schedule these days and can attest to the fact that it is an exciting time to lead the work in the municipality.
“It’s something you could hardly believe you’d experience. This represents a complete turnaround in the development of Skellefteå. What is happening right now is the largest industrial establishment in decades. It’s completely unique. You have to go back 50 or 100 years to find equivalents in Sweden. From Skellefteå having been stagnant in its development, to being part of this – it’s a total turnaround,” she says.
Kristina notes that the battery factory will change Skellefteå.
“It will affect the whole of society: infrastructure, schools, kindergartens, really everything. And what is unique is that these changes will need to happen incredibly quickly.”
New housing will be one of the foremost needs of a growing Skellefteå. Right now, several private actors, such as Magnolia Bostad and Heimstaden Bostad, are investing in construction in Skellefteå. And the investments in the municipality do not stop at housing.
“Right now Skellefteå is investing more per capita than any other city in Sweden. Choosing what to prioritize will be a major challenge. What investments are needed for a growing society? Regional and national priorities will also be needed. Because this establishment will affect the whole of northern Sweden and also northern Sweden in general. It’s so big, we can’t do it on our own. Now we really have the opportunity to find a good model for how to work with societal transformation at all levels,” says Kristina.
Benefits the region
The Västerbotten Chamber of Commerce is in complete agreement. Sofia Lindström, coordinator at the office in Skellefteå, believes that the factory represents a boost for the entire region.
“The establishment affects our entire business community. We see many new start-ups among other companies. In addition, the factory imposes major demands on our infrastructure. Northvolt’s decision to establish itself here benefits the entire region,” she says.
The single largest infrastructure investment in northern Sweden in over 100 years is the North Bothnia Line. Elisabeth Sinclair, Project Manager at the North Bothnia Line Group, believes that the Northvolt factory has accelerated the line’s construction and strengthened the arguments for its establishment.
“At the end of the day, we have very good arguments. But it’s clear that the Northvolt establishment has strengthened them. Not least in terms of completion. Northvolt increases knowledge of the region. People get interested. Of course, this helps to make the North Bothnia Line a clearer necessity to more people in decision-making positions,” she says.
Makes a great deal possible
A railway is not the only thing that will be needed when the Northvolt factory is built. The battery factory also affects the Port of Skellefteå . The first major freight volumes of materials will begin to arrive in containers by the end of 2021. There are also a number of Northvolt subcontractors, which will both receive and dispatch goods, says Port Manager Lars Widelund.
“This will make a lot of things possible for us. We’ll get back the container traffic that we had up until 2006. That means better conditions for the local business community,” he says.
Historical investments are currently being made in the port – including a completely new quay on the north side. The battery factory has made the process more urgent.
“The initial idea was to have the quay on the north side ready by 2030. Now the plan is to have it ready by 2024. So we’re going to push things up by six years,” says Lars.
“Aim for 100,000”
And speaking of 2030 – Skellefteå’s population target is to have 80,000 inhabitants by 2030. Today, the figure is just shy of 73,000. But Professor Lars Westin of the Center for Regional Sciences believes that the municipality should aim even higher than that. The key is a continued effort by the municipality to build more housing.
“With 100,000 inhabitants, the city would be on a new level, becoming interesting for a wider and more numerous range of employers, workers and home seekers,” he says.
And getting there is far from being impossible, says Lars Westin.
“The whole world is growing; Sweden’s population is growing. Scandinavia is incredibly attractive from a global perspective. Why shouldn’t Skellefteå grow even more?”
Municipal Director Kristina Sundin Jonsson agrees that lofty ambitions are a good thing.
“We’re now planning for a community with significantly more than 80,000 inhabitants. We have every opportunity to grow in size to something along the lines of what Lars Westin suggests. You have to demonstrate powerful, lofty ambitions. And there are plenty of those in Skellefteå,” she says.