The Mayor Timo Koivisto turns his gaze towards the vital future of Jyväskylä in his New Year speech 2023
Dear People of Jyväskylä,
Another exceptional year has passed, and now we look towards 2023. But what was the year that is just ending really like?
We began it firmly in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. However, thanks to vaccinations, the situation quickly improved during the first part of the year. So in February, the City of Jyväskylä's emergency management team decided to abandon even the most recent coronavirus restrictions and recommendations. For a short while, everyday life seemed normal.
But normal ended when, on 24 February, we woke up to the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine. War in Europe had begun, and many people in Jyväskylä were worried. The city was inundated with questions about civil defence shelters and iodine tablets.
The impact of the war was quickly seen here, too, as refugees began to move to Jyväskylä. The solidarity and compassion of Finns and the people of Jyväskylä was strong. Homes were found, volunteers collected aid for those in need and various events were held to show support for the country under attack and its people.
The city's schools and daycare centers welcomed children of all ages. The aim was for everyone who had fled Ukraine to quickly find some permanence in their daily lives and feel part of our city. At the moment, the city’s schools have about 200 children who have fled the war in Ukraine. It's a big effort for us too, but it's the least we can do.
The impact of war is evident in all our daily lives. The rise in the price of energy and food and interest rate hikes are directly affecting the living standards of many. Nonetheless, we cannot bow to the pressure from Russia. Rather than panicking, we just lower the temperature and save electricity. The state is also supporting the most disadvantaged, as it should in a welfare state. We will get through this. In Jyväskylä, however, we are not experiencing even a small part of the sorrows of, say, Mariupol.
In the midst of crises, it’s somewhat contradictory to say that the year ending in Jyväskylä has been reasonably good. The underlying momentum of the economy is positive and employment has developed positively as a result. Events have brought life to the city, with a near-record number of them taking place since the end of the coronavirus restrictions.
Students also returned to Jyväskylä in the wake of coronavirus, and the year just ended is one of the best ever for population growth. At the end of November, there were 1,450 more Jyväskylä residents than at the same time the previous year. Just over half of this growth is due to migration from within the country, but almost as much to immigration. This is good because, this year for the first time, natural population growth looks set to be almost non-existent in Jyväskylä too.
Work-based immigration is therefore necessary to address labour supply problems in many sectors. For Jyväskylä. study-based immigration is at least as important.
As university age groups start to shrink from 2030 onwards, the debate will inevitably begin on where to cut study places. We need international students to fulfill the void that declining age groups create. And, when we do get the international students to come to study here, we must make sure that they want also to stay after they have finished their studies.
Dear People of Jyväskylä,
At the turn of the year, the biggest ever change in the history of Finnish local government will take place, with social and health services and rescue services being transferred from cities to well-being services counties. As governance becomes increasingly divergent, the importance of cooperation will be heightened. Together with the well-being services county, we have identified areas where we need to continue to work together seamlessly for the benefit of our residents. We will work side by side to ensure that residents can continue to find services to support them smoothly through their life stages. I am confident that the transition to the new organisation will not cause any disruption or problems for the people of Jyväskylä.
Even if separate wellbeing services counties are being created alongside municipalities, their name should not be misleading: municipalities will continue to have the primary task of looking after the wellbeing of their residents. That’s why municipalities exist.
However, the social and health care reform will allow the City of Jyväskylä to focus on the cornerstones of our city of culture: training and education. On the other hand, with record investment, we are also building a stronger cultural and sports city.
In the city of Alvar Aalto, we are currently renovating the Aalto Alvar and preparing for the renovation of the theatre building. Aalto 2 – a consortium of two museums – will open its doors this spring, offering an excellent opportunity to make our city a new domestic and international attraction.
Among the new investments, the Finnish baseball stadium will be completed by next summer and construction of the country's best football hall will start next year. Two of our city's iconic school buildings, the Lyseo and Cygnaeus schools, will be renovated for educational and cultural use.
The construction of the long-awaited P-Paraatiaukio parking facility launched a chain of investments in the city centre. After the car park, a public transport terminal will be completed and the market square will be moved to its new location. The new look of the city centre will be crowned by the renovation of its beating heart, the pedestrian street. So a lot of things are happening to restore the city centre to its former glory.
At the beginning of the year, we will hopefully also be able to make a final decision on the launch of the Hippos project, after a long series of objections. This would be the jewel in the crown of all the major investments. By investing heavily, we are not only building the conditions for future growth in the city, we are also safeguarding employment in the construction sector in a difficult economic climate.
In crises, there is always opportunity.
The war in Ukraine has highlighted Jyväskylä's strengths in cybersecurity. Our city has the best and most extensive cybersecurity education in the country, the expertise of the armed forces and many top companies in the field. In the coming years, Finland will have to think more and more about how to protect its society from malicious attacks on information systems. It would be in the interest of the whole country to establish a cybersecurity centre of excellence in Jyväskylä. It would not only improve cybersecurity skills but also create new business and jobs. A great step in this direction was the decision just before Christmas by Petri Honkonen, Minister of Science and Culture, to give the lead responsibility for training in the sector to our educational institutions and to invest millions more in it.
It is also important to remember that last year was not only a year of crises, but also of many unforgettable moments. During the year, new champions from the capital city of sport were crowned in many fields. The Kirittäret regained the women’s Finnish baseball championship, and Topi Raitanen won the 3000m steeplechase title at the European championships with his run in the final being especially memorable. Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen dancing on the roof of their Toyota from New Zealand was one of the most unforgettable moments in rally driving. In Jyväskylä, we also commemorated the world's most successful ski jumper Matti Nykänen by erecting a memorial to him on the shore of Lake Köyhälampi.
Jyväskylä as a city of culture also received many different awards. The winner of the Finlandia Prize for Architecture was the renovation project for the University of Jyväskylä Library. The Yläkaupungin Yö multi-art festival celebrated the 2022 Finland Prize. Our city's cultural life also received many other accolades, which were celebrated at the end of the year in Central Finland's first joint cultural gala. The gala aims to pay tribute to cultural actors, and to highlight the multi-dimensional and award-winning cultural expertise of our city.
People of Jyväskylä,
I myself am beginning the coming year in my second term as Mayor of our city. I bear the responsibility with pride. It’s wonderful to lead one of Finland’s most attractive cities towards the future. I know that by co-operating we can achieve great things. We will do everything we can to ensure that Jyväskylä continues to be a good place to live, study, work and do business. To live well and the balance life as we so choose. To feel welcome in our city, whether you move here from elsewhere in Finland or from outside our borders.
A very Happy New Year to us all!
The city of Jyväskylä