Spillover, sponge or something else? Dismantling expectations for rural development resulting from giga-investments in Northern Sweden
The paradoxical situation of planning for growth while managing decline has long been a reality for politicians and planners in Nordic peripheries. In recent years, however, attempts to plan for demographic adaptation, smart shrinkage, and ‘right-sizing’ public services have become commonplace. While it has taken decades for this to become an accepted part of municipal planning, new opportunities are now arising in the Swedish North due to several unforeseen giga-investments. These are expected to trigger rapid socio-economic growth along the urbanized coast and in a few select inland locations. Yet the likely effects on shrinking rural and sparsely populated municipalities geographically adjacent to these investment hotspots are much less understood. Previous research suggests that such investment projects might cause pressure for rural labour and housing markets but may also offer a range of positive spillover effects and development opportunities for rural areas. We draw on structural level narratives and interviews with key informants, including local and regional political stakeholders, to identify how the prospects of the giga-investments are viewed in places that are not directly affected, and what opportunities and threats are discussed. An overarching theme identified in the empirical material concerns the a-spatiality of discourses of growth, which we divide into two concrete dilemmas: infrastructure and mobility. Our findings show that, while the investments are seen as ringing in a new ‘golden age’ for the northern region, such a-spatial understandings of regional characteristics might stand in the way of acting fast and being able to make the most of the potential spillover effects.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Linda Lundmark , Doris A. Carson , Marco Eimermann
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