How do we build attractive communities in the Arctic?

– If we are going to be able to build attractive communities in the Arctic, we need to change how we talk about the Arctic. I don’t know a lot of people who would want to move to a place described as cold, dark and remote, where the young people are leaving and the challenges are many. Do you? 

From left: Tina Melfjord, North Norway European Office, Magnus Haugen, Avju AS, Aleksander Uteng, Seafood Cluster Senja, Maja Wolland Blomberg, Nord University, Elin Dahlseng Eide, Nordland County Council, Line Kjelstrup, Biotech North and Nils Kristian Sørheim Nilsen., North Norway European Office Photo: Zdenek Dvorak

That was the final points of our advisor Tina Melfjord, during last week's Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The side event, organised by Nordland, Troms and Finnmark County Councils, asked the very timely question of how do we build attractive communities in the Arctic? 

Turning challenges to advantages

The Arctic regions are often considered as remote and with less potential for development and innovation than our more central counterparts. These challenges often affect the regions’ attractiveness for living, investments, and development. 

Packed room at the side event at Arctic Circle. Photo: Zdenek Dvorak

– However, the characteristics that often are described as challenging for the Arctic regions, can also be an advantage, Nils Kristian Sørheim Nilsen, Director of North Norway European Office, stated in his opening keynote, as moderator of the session. 

– The regions’ remoteness provides opportunities for unique development projects, exciting innovations and new ways of thinking. This side event presented best practices that not only creates places for people to work, but also bring sustainability and good living for the communities to the table.

Not only jobs, but a fulfilling life

Elin Dahlseng Eide, the former president of Nordland County Council of Nordland, focused on cooperation and development in North Norway, and the importance of a holistic approach, from kindergarten to cultural activities. This was also the clear message from our advisor Tina Melfjord. 

– We need housing, kindergartens, education, also international education, cultural activities and everything else that you and I need to be happy living no matter where, not just a job, Melfjord stated. 

Important to build local knowledge to foster the needs

Tina Melfjord, North Norway European Office. Photo: Zdenek Dvorak

Tina, being from Mo i Rana, used her own experience from seeing the town just south of the Arctic Circle change.Mo I Rana is currently working on takeing advantage of the opportunities FREYR Batteries bring with it, not just in terms of job opportunities, but for the growth of the whole region. 

Line Kjelstrup, the cluster manager for Biotech North, shared her knowledge on unique Arctic infrastructure for innovation in the blue economy, and the great potential we have within this sector, have in the Arctic.

Two representatives from the business sector in the Arctic shares their perspective, first to take the floor was Aleksander Uteng, the cluster manager for Seafood Cluster Senja. He spoke about what they have done in their region to integrate and keep their workforce who come from abroad or other places.

Magnus Haugen, CMO of Avju AS gave us insight on how more effective power grids are the basis for activities and creating good lives in the Arctic. Their very innovative solution shows how to extract more power from the power grids and the great potential that lies there.

Important that the research back the local knowledge

Maja Wolland Blomberg, a phd-student from the High North Center at Nord university shared about a very important and exciting research project focusing on population development in North Norway, but with the aim of creating more knowledge about population development in general. As we had heard; a good image is very important.

– And with that as a background, I suggest that from now on we only speak positively about ourselves and start promoting the good life in the Arctic, was the closing statement of Nils Kristian Sørheim Nilsen.