Google buys old Finnish paper mill

Google has opened a gigantic data centre in Finland and it’s getting the neighbour’s hopes up, with talk that other technology bigwigs will follow suit and set up shop in Scandanavia.

The problem for Finland is, outside the capital, Helsinki, the situation is grim. Although the national pride of the Finns will mean they won’t admit it – instead, many of them intent on clinging to success stories and going down with sinking ships – the jobs market is not promising. And data centres do not typically bring in a lot of work. The positive side of Finland in tech is a culture of start-ups that are as keen to fail and learn from mistakes as they are to snatch investment and earn millions.

Much of Finland used to rely on manufacturing. Indeed, Google’s new €200 million ($271.9 million) purchase used to be a paper mill in Hamina, but as companies have wised up to the benefits of outsourcing abroad over the last couple of decades, the mills and factories have closed down. Drive a couple of hours out from Helsinki to Tampere and the scenery is very different. Or even a couple of stops on the train to the daytime drinkers of Kallio.

The manual labour jobs for the everyman have slowed. The shiny new buildings of posh Espoo and Nokia’s HQ would have you think otherwise.

Data centres will feed it for a quick buck but long term will not bring the prosperity Finland is hoping for. It’s a different story in Norway and Sweden, but the word from the man on the street in Finland is, at least after a few drinks, there is a lot of pride about a nation secretly in decline. 

Still, the Wall Street Journal reports, Google has seen an opportunity and seized it. The naturally cooler climate makes parts of the country perfect for placing its electrical powerhouses, as do other small towns in, say, Sweden. An entrepreneur from Luleå, Sweden, spoke to the WSJ and said the infrastructure is pretty unique thanks to the location and hydroelectric power dams. Twice, he claimed, the capacity of Nevada’s Hoover Dam. 

But some of the more attractive reasons, the report says, is the advanced infrastructure in place and good access to fiber-optics, and political stability. Not to mention their close proximity to the booming Russian technology industry, an oft-overlooked part of the world which is making great bounds, but where Western tech firms are a little worried to set up shop. 

You can get a train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg in just three and a half hours.