Mån 24 jun / År 42 / Nr 3 2024

Pajala needs to change to embrace new opportunities

Business life in Norrbotten is developing into something that was never before considered possible in this part of the country. It is big, it is powerful, it creates attraction for the region – and it includes multi-billion (SEK) investments. The entire region now needs to change to pave way for new opportunities.

Erik Mella projektledare utrikesterminalen tillsammans med Robert Pettersson flygplatschef Pajala Airport.

There is an extensive green transition taking place in Norrbotten and in the neighbouring county of Västerbotten, and it is happening fast. Infrastructure, business, community service and commercial service must be developed at the same time to be able to meet the demands that will be made in connection with the new industrialisation that is now underway in Sweden’s two northernmost counties.

“Skills shortage will likely be our biggest challenge in the region and in Pajala going forward. We certainly have plenty of geographical space for growth, but Pajala is home to only about 6,000 people today. There must be more of us if the industrial investments are to be successful. More residents with the right skills who can help us reach the goals of an entrepreneurial municipality at the forefront is what we need now”, says Erik Mella, Project Manager at Pajala Airport.

A willingness to embrace opportunities

Pajala is in the midst of development. Just over three years ago, mining operations were reopened in Kaunisvaara in Pajala municipality, with extraction of iron ore that is sent on to Narvik for shipping. The mine in Kaunisvaara is one of the largest mines in the Nordics with around 500 employees and is run by the expansive Kaunis Iron, a wholly owned Swedish company.

Now, Kaunis Iron is expanding operations in Pajala further and has received the go-ahead for environmental permits to expand mining operations to the nearby iron ore deposits in the surrounding area. Thanks to that, Pajala will gain much more importance as a mining location in northern Europe.

“The mine is a very important engine for our social development here in Pajala and in northern Sweden in general. We also have a couple of expansive sawmills here in the region that recently merged, and they will be even stronger as one. For every industrial job, two to three jobs are often created in other industries, and of course we want to contribute to that. The industry is at full speed in the region and for us at the municipality, a lot is about strengthening our service so that we can embrace the opportunities that are born in connection with the development of the industry”, Erik Mella continues.

The tourism industry must be developed

Pajala has Sweden’s second northernmost airport. There is a great ambition to develop the hospitality industry and the airport plays a key role in that. With a new terminal, the local airport has gained a significantly higher capacity.

“In Pajala, we can primarily offer experiences based on nature. The last untouched wilderness for example, is something that can be packaged for tourists who want to experience something unique. From the municipality’s side, we intend to support the development of the hospitality industry in all areas, from accommodation to snowmobile trails, fishing, dog sledding and other activities that are found here and that are associated with the arctic location”, says Erik Mella.

Good examples of cooperation

Pajala Airport is a driving force in the development of Pajala’s hospitality industry. A large number of visitors arrive by air every winter to meet Santa Claus, who has his abode in Santa’s Winter Village in Pajala.

“Santa’s Winter Village is an excellent example of how experiences can be packaged and then contribute to local development, with a local entrepreneur behind it all and with great international interest. It is also an investment that is based on a strong commitment to the locality and an interest in collaboration with other companies and not least with the municipality. We would like more entrepreneurs to contact us to discuss future development opportunities, just as the founder of Santa’s Winter Village did many years ago. It is one of our many good examples of cooperation that has produced fantastic results”, concludes Erik Mella.