EU’s northernmost brewery shuts down
Lapin Kulta - “Lapland Gold" beer to be brewed in Lahti
“I don’t know. There’s cleaning piled up at home. I’m still in kind of a daze, thinking that I’m just on holiday”, says industrial laboratory assistant Anu-Liisa Nahkiaisoja, 51, when asked what she plans to do on Wednesday, September 1st, when her nearly 30 years of working at the brewery in Tornio come to an end.
“I will miss my colleagues. Everyone knows each other”, says Nahkiaisoja as she packs away pipettes.
Tornio’s biggest employer, the Outokumpu steel mill, is currently expanding its operations. Many hope that there might be a new job there for them. “There will probably be many of us standing in line”, Nahkiaisoja says, pondering her chances.
Erkki Piiparinen, 54, who has worked at the plant that brews Lapin Kulta beer for over 30 years as a systems expert and warehouse manager, is also uncertain about his future.
“I sent my papers to Outokumpu.”
There were 20 jobs available at the Lahti brewery, but work in three shifts on a production line was not something for which Piiparinen wanted to leave his current home.
Hartwall, which was taken over by the Dutch Heineken concern in 2008, announced a year ago that it is not economically feasible to keep two breweries in Finland.
Already in 2005 the number of employees was sharply reduced when the owner was the British Scottish & Newcastle.
At one time, the Tornio brewery employed more than 200 people, and even in recent times, there were nearly 100.
Fewer than ten are moving to Lahti. Some were able to go into retirement, others found work elsewhere, and some went into training, but the future remains uncertain for about half of them.
The average age of the employees is 45 years.
"Hartwall has been very good as an employer, but it did make one very abrupt move here”, Piiparinen says diplomatically.
Reactions to this move are indicated by the pins on the brewery notice board that have been stuck into the photograph of CEO Jan-Kees Nieman.
Beer production in Tornio ended already in early August, and the storage areas are now empty. The plant officially closes today, Tuesday.
In September the dismantling of the factory equipment begins, and the task is expected to take until last summer.
“Perhaps to Lahti, or maybe to Congo”, says Lauri Multanen, who managed the Tornio brewery for more than 11 years, when asked where the brewing equipment might go.
Multanen also considered a move abroad, but when a good offer came from the meat packer HK, he decided to return to his roots in the meat business.
On Wednesday, Multanen will be at a desk at his new job. “I don’t think that the view will be better than this”, he says, taking a last look at the freely-flowing Tornio River.
The scenic location of the brewery on the banks of the river in the centre of Tornio also places certain conditions on the future use of the brewery building and the 3.5 hectares of land that it is on. Hartwall has hired a consultant to consider options.
Ideas that have been put forward include a bio-ethanol factory, a spa, cultural facilities, a sports arena, housing, and corporate premises.
Tornio Mahor Raimo Ronkainen is already dealing with zoning changes, and fears that Hartwall might suddenly just sell the property to a contractor.
Another cause for concern is the waste water treatment plant owned jointly by Tornio and its neighbour, the Swedish city of Haparanda. Hartwall is also a shareholder in the plant, and there are questions of how the divestment will take place, and if the move will have an effect on water prices.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Carlsberg and Heineken aspire to purchase S&N, owner of Finnish brewers Hartwall (18.10.2007)
Popular northern brand Lapin Kulta is to leave Tornio (9.10.2009)