THE EXPANSION IN THE NORTH
Peter Larsson highlights Skellefteå's enormous social transformation
Peter Larsson is the government's coordinator for the major social transformation in northern Norrland. This work involves getting many different actors to work together. He believes in continued expansion in Skellefteå, even after Northvolt's battery factory is up and running.
- Skellefteå will soon be a normal-sized Swedish city. Congratulations!" he says.
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On 16 December last year, Peter Larsson received his coordination assignment from the government. Basically, the transformation he will coordinate involves a number of large industrial start-ups: Northvolt's battery factory in Skellefteå, H2 Green Steel's green steel plant in Boden, and Hybrit in Gällivare, which is developing fossil-free iron and steel production, which are some of the most obvious examples. But the transformation is also about everything that goes with the establishments - service companies, restaurants, culture, the need for housing, education and much more.
- It has gone very fast. But I think you've embraced this well in Skellefteå. It's a bit like when a municipality is hit by a major closure. Then it's a different kind of shock. This is a positive shock. But both scenarios require a mobilisation of those involved," he says.
During the year, he has had more than 500 digital meetings with various stakeholders in northern Sweden.
- I encounter tremendous kindness. Most people are very receptive to my approaches. Some might have expected me to come as the government's representative and wave a magic wand and the money would flow. But it's not that simple. It's all about collaboration," he says.
"Wave of resettlement"
- The challenge in northern Sweden has been the population curve. It's not that it's wrong to get older, because we all do. But we need to have a reasonably mixed population composition for tax revenue and to ensure that there are carers and other things. Now we could have a wave of people moving back, with families with children or students choosing to stay," he says.
In Skellefteå, the need for housing is a big issue right now. But the acute situation will stabilize, says Peter Larsson.
- There will be some shortages now in the beginning and we will have temporary housing. But five years down the line, it will have stabilised. By then we'll be used to the continued expansion. Because I don't think it will slow down after Northvolt opens its doors. There will be other, smaller companies that find it interesting to be here.
"People are skills"
Another challenge is attracting the right skills. But Peter Larsson prefers to talk about people.
"People are the competence. I like to say people, so that people don't think it's a commodity that you can go in and buy in a bulk purchase. It's people who bring experience with them, but they might have to go through further training to get a new job. We also need to look at the opportunities that exist for people who have been out of the labour market for a long time, and put in some extra resources so that they can get back in. That's good for the whole Swedish economy.
The importance of a welcoming climate
Over the next few years, Skellefteå will be a bit of a mess, with housing to be built and streets to be dug, Peter Larsson believes. But it's important to have a positive attitude during that phase.
- As with all transitions, it has to be said: "Okay, it will be a bit more trouble in the short term". But it's temporary, and soon we'll see all these new things emerging. What I preach above all is: make sure there is a welcoming climate for those who move here.
In short: coordinator Peter Larsson on urban transformation in northern Sweden
- On 16 December 2020, Peter Larsson was appointed by the government as coordinator for urban transformation in northern Sweden. Something that he believes sends an important signal. "By appointing me, the government is saying that this coordination is important," he says.
- "Sweden is an extremely decentralised country. We have 290 municipalities, 21 regions and 250 different authorities. When we have such major changes, it's important to keep track, so that one hand knows what the other is doing. That's what we call a stovepipe. I guess I'm a bit of a hangdog in all this," he says.
- "There is a problem that is common to most municipalities in northern and western Sweden, with the exception of Umeå. And that is the composition of the population. You get older, you stay, but the young people have moved away. Now we could have a wave of people moving back with families with children or students who choose to stay. That's why it's important to talk about attractiveness. It's different for different people. Some people will be very interested in Sara Kulturhus here in Skellefteå. Others are interested in outdoor activities. You have to look at all these different aspects and speak a little different languages. Above all, I think you should be very proud of the place you live in."