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Mies nojaa talvella jyväskylä-kirjaimiin. Image Petteri Kivimäki

Timo Koivisto's New Year's speech 2023. 

Dear residents of Jyväskylä,

The year 2023 is ending, and it is time to fix our eyes on the future. However, it is good to review what happened during 2023.

In the City of Jyväskylä decision-making, the year was dominated by economic rebalancing. Jyväskylä proved to be the biggest sufferer from the financing model for the wellbeing services counties reform. As a result, the deficits that have affected our economy in the past more than doubled to over 40 million euros.

Therefore, at the beginning of the year, we started work on balancing the economy. The City Boardtook the responsibility for supervising the work. In late spring, when deciding on the framework budget, we set the ambitious goal of achieving balance within three years. In this way, the result for 2026 should already turn positive. The goal is challenging, to say the least, as Jyväskylä's per capita spending has long been one of the lowest in large cities.    

The critical starting point for balancing was that we would make all the necessary decisions simultaneously. Decision-making in the city cannot constantly revolve around the economy. Our main task, however, is to ensure the inhabitants’ wellbeing and region’s vitality. With economic solutions in place, the main focus could be on them entirely.  

Thanks to our responsible decision-makers, we were able to reach the goal. Next year's budget, approved by the City Council at the end of November, includes measures that will clearly improve the city's economy next year and turn positive in line with the goal in 2026. Roughly two-thirds of the balancing is achieved by adjusting the operational economy. We will attain the rest with a 0.64 percentage point increase in municipal tax.

Even after these decisions, our wellbeing services will remain reasonable, and taxation is nowhere near the highest end among municipalities. It is a good starting point, even though the Ministry of Finance slightly moved the goalposts with their revised central government transfers calculation.

When talk about economy dominated the airspace, people got the impression that the economic situation in Jyväskylä was exceptionally poor. That is not the case. Next year's budget figures are pretty average for large cities. And if we were to get anywhere near our fair share of state contributions, we would be among the top cities. Fortunately, the government has initiated a comprehensive reform of the system of central government transfers. Succeeding in this will be our top priority for advocacy in the coming year.

Dear residents of Jyväskylä,

Although the economy was prominent in the debate last year, many other things happened in our city. Our decision-makers made many important decisions to improve the amenities and services for the inhabitants. Large projects were completed, several are underway and new ones will be launched throughout the city next year.

One of our major investments in culture and vitality got far too little attention in the year about to end,  A new music hall was modernised for our outstanding symphony in Paviljonki.  Since January, more than a thousand listeners at a time will have the opportunity to enjoy our orchestra in an excellent acoustic setting.  

The new Finnish baseball, pesäpallo stadium completed on Hippos in the summer of 2023 gained much more visibility. The new stadium will get to shine next summer when the national top pesäpallo event, East-West, is played in Jyväskylä.

At the beginning of the year, the construction of the new Hippos will finally begin. In fact, the project is already in motion, as the first stakes were set out at the beginning of this month. A unique hub of sports and exercise will be built in Hippos, where excellent facilities combine with cutting-edge expertise. Not only do they generate well-being, but also, work and livelihood.

The renovation of Harju Stadium will begin next autumn. Soon, the 100-year-old sports field will be fully renovated to improve the opportunities for athletics and football in our city. Even more important for football is the new Huhtasuo football hall, which will be completed by the end of next year. Overall, we invest a great deal in sports facilities, as local sports facilities are also constantly being developed.

The construction of P-Paraati affected the city centre in many ways during the past year. The project was just a massive hole in front of the City Hall for a long time. The hole is gradually disappearing, and the parking facilities will be ready next summer. After the parking facilities, a public transport terminal will be completed and the market will be relocated to its new place. The uplifting of the city centre will be crowned by a fundamental improvement of the pedestrian street in a few years.

After the P-Paraati is completed, a significant renovation will commence in our theatre house designed by Alvar Aalto. The theatre will move to Paviljonki, which will partly convert into a cultural centre during the works.  

Among the premises designed by Alvar Aalto, our rather unique swimming pool has also been refurbished. The AaltoAlvari will be more attractive, and the swimming pools will be renewed per the users' wishes.

The third cutting-edge Alvar Aalto venue was completed last spring when the Aalto2 Museum Centre opened its doors. During its first summer, it lured record audiences to enjoy the exhibitions. The fourth and probably the most easily visible destination for city inhabitants was the transfer of Alvar Aalto's boat to the port of Jyväskylä. It will further increase the attractiveness of the lively and eventful harbour area.

The Kangas area is also being upgraded with determination. In the next few years, a nationally significant project will be the restoration of the Tourujoki River.  What is unique is that the Tourujoki River will be restored to the most natural state possible.  Of course, the recreational use of the river will also improve when paths are built along it with comfortable resting spots.

Dear listeners,

In our city, there has been an intense debate about the euros and whether we will have enough of them. In this situation, many people ask why the city is building new things while some services are being reduced. Apart from the well-being of its inhabitants, the city must also look after its vitality. In fact, it is our primary duty, even under the Local Government Act. Even though the services are building vitality, investment is also required. A city that does not offer diverse cultural and sports opportunities will not attract new talent. A city that does not invest in an attractive built environment will not be able to compete for new businesses and jobs. By taking care of the vitality and attractiveness, we can ensure the funding of our well-being.

Indeed, our attractiveness is currently in excellent shape.  By the end of October, the population of Jyväskylä had grown by about 1,700 inhabitants. It's the highest number ever. The city now has a population of 147,600, and there is a strong indication that we will reach the target of 150,000 inhabitants in the next couple of years.

On the other hand, we have much to improve in terms of employment. The unemployment rate started to improve in the middle of the year and is below average even for large cities. Boosting employment is one of our most important tasks. It is crucial to improve the business environment further.  As I have toured the companies operating in Jyväskylä, their message has been clear. Skilled labour must be available, and dealing with the city must be as smooth as possible. The city’s accessibility by all modes of transport is also important for businesses. Here, too, we need to improve even further.

In the management of employment, the city’s role will strengthen significantly, as the responsibility for employment as a whole will be transferred to municipalities at the beginning of 2025. At that time, we will take on tasks related to the management of employment from the state together with the municipality of Muurame.  

Dear residents of Jyväskylä,

The most important task of the city is still to look after the well-being of its inhabitants. That's why we exist.

In recent years, the mental health problems of young people have become more pronounced as we monitor the situation of our residents in our wellbeing report. A determined effort must be made in schools, daycare centres and the wellbeing services county to tackle this problem. We need to create a safe future for young people.  Mental health services for young people must also be strengthened and help provided when needed.

Many people feel insecure for one reason or another.  It may be related to international crises as well as to one's immediate surroundings or mobility. As a city, we work with various authorities to make every inhabitant feel safe in their neighbourhood. We contribute to the sense of safety in many ways, for example, by ensuring that the street lights work and the streets are ploughed and sanded.

Dear residents of Jyväskylä,

One of the most positive news of the coming year was the partnership between Jyväskylä and Toyota. When the world's largest car manufacturer and one of the world's best-known brands wants to make a stronger commitment to Jyväskylä, it is an enormous honour and opportunity for the city. In the first phase, Toyota will build a new centre of excellence in Majajärvi, north of Jyväskylä. What else will be placed in the area in the future remains to be seen. At the beginning of the year, we will also hear more about the projects of the foundation we have set up with Toyota to invest in sustainable mobility.  That’s no small thing, either.

The Toyota cooperation is an excellent example of what events, at best, can bring to the city. Next year, in addition to the rallies, will be the peak year of events. In March, we will organize the Finnish Championship competition for winter sports. As many as 18 sports will have their championship battles in our city. In the summer, besides the East-West game in pesäpallo, Finnish baseball, we will see Kuninkuusravit. For this harness racing championship contest, we expect tens of thousands of visitors from all over Finland.

All in all, you can welcome the new year in Jyväskylä serenely and enthusiastically. We can be proud of our growing city, where newcomers are welcome. We will continue to work so that it is good to live, study, work and do business here.  

Happy New Year for all of you!

Timo Koivisto
City of Jyväskylä