Resource-based economy in the north,
high-tech industry in the south


The town of Haparanda is located just under 100 kilometres
south of the Arctic Circle, where the Swedish-
Finnish border river, the Torneälv (Finnish: Tornionjoki),
empties into the Gulf of Bothnia. The town has a good
10,000 inhabitants. A little more than 22,000 live in
the Finnish industrial city Tornio, just across the river,
a town that has close links to Haparanda. The seemingly
endless wilderness of Lapland, with its forests,
lakes, and swamps, extends through the hinterlands of
the coastal region. Until recently there was not much
going on in Haparanda. Many young people moved away
because they saw no future there.


Then came November 15, 2006. On this day, Ikea,
the world’s largest furniture dealer, headquartered in
Sweden, opened a branch in Haparanda. The mayor of
this small border town had spoken to the boss of the
company at a conference and showed him an inverted
map. Seen this way, the remote end of Sweden became
the centre of the Barents region, where one million
potential customers from Norway, Sweden, Finland, and
Russia could reach the furniture store in a maximum of
six hours driving time. Travelling long distances is nothing
out of the ordinary in this sparsely settled region
of the world. The IKEA founder was convinced — and it
paid off. Today the parking spaces in front of the store
are full every day with cars from all four countries of the
sub-arctic zone. The sales area needs to be enlarged.
Even after the project was announced, the community
sold plots of land to be developed for over 60 million
crowns, the equivalent of around six million euros. In
February 2008 investments had already reached a total
of one billion crowns. The share of job seekers in the
town fell within one year from 16 to eleven per cent.




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