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Lappeenranta, an international university city and tourist destination, and a gateway between east and west

Over a period of more than a hundred years, Lappeenranta has grown and evolved from an army camp during Finland’s period as a Grand Duchy and a military town of the independent Finland into the international university city and tourist destination that it is today.

Lappeenranta’s special location in the border region between the East and the West, on the southern shore of the fourth largest lake in Europe, Saimaa, has favoured and shaped local business and industry and also added unique features to the local culture. Throughout history, excellent transport links in all directions have been considered to be a vital element for the vitality of the region. The region’s natural beauty and Karelian atmosphere attract visitors to the area.

Lappeenranta has approximately 73000 residents, which is more than half of the total population of the South Karelia region. However, if all the students are counted in, the total number of residents living in this central city of the South Karelia region is significantly higher than the official number.

Expertise promotes entrepreneurship and creates jobs

The key strength of Lappeenranta since the late 1960s has been the university. The spearhead project of the business strategy is to promote entrepreneurship based on expertise: the innovations of LUT University are turned into business ideas and operations, and the City of Lappeenranta provides bold entrepreneurs with an environment conducive to starting a business and laying down roots.

Thanks to the university, new businesses and jobs are created for the high tech, electrical engineering and energy sectors. The education and training provided by the university, the university of applied sciences and vocational institutions ensure a steady supply of specialists, experts and workers for a wide range of jobs in production and trade.

The setting of green goals that benefit the environment and innovations related to the recycling of waste are also sources of new business activities. Lappeenranta is also being developed into a test environment for environmentally friendly innovations.

While many traditional industrial jobs have been lost in Finland, innovations and future-oriented investing will ensure that Southeast Finland holds its position as an important player among European and global forest industry concentrations.

For example, the world’s first biorefinery producing wood-based renewable diesel from forestry residue, located at the Kaukas Mill site of UPM Lappeenranta, has attracted worldwide attention.

A city of services

If we drew a circle around Lappeenranta with a radius of 200+ kilometres, the cities of Helsinki and St. Petersburg would fall within that circle. There are roughly eight million people living within that circle, offering the largest customer potential for trade and well-being services in Northern Europe.

The key success factors of Lappeenranta’s tourism business include an international airport located close to the city centre, the visa-free cruises to Vyborg along the Saimaa Canal and fast train links to St. Petersburg and Helsinki, and one of the largest tourist areas in the Nordic countries, Rauha. It is located in the eastern part of Lappeenranta and includes a Holiday Club resort and spa.

The range of commercial services on offer in Lappeenranta is exceptionally versatile, largely on account of Russian shopping tourists. In the long run, cross-border traffic is expected to increase, although the growth rate will be affected by the economic situation in Russia and the effect it will have on the purchasing power of Russians at any given time.

In order to balance the effects of unforeseen seasonal fluctuations on business and industry in the Lappeenranta region, marketing will also be directed at Europe and the rest of the world.

Engaging residents in building a green Lappeenranta

The goal of Lappeenranta is to become a leading hub and pioneer in renewable energy in Europe. Green power stems from the internationally recognised expertise in energy and environmental technology of Lappeenranta University of Technology and its Green Campus.

All residents need to be engaged in building a green Lappeenranta. Bus fares are low and the cycle routes from residential areas to the city centre are very convenient. In 2015, Lappeenranta was named Cycling City of the Year based on the dedication to improve the city’s cycling routes, among other criteria.

Tips on how to monitor and reduce energy consumption in your own home are available through energy advice services.

Finland’s first inland wind mill park in Muukko, along highway 6, is the most visible sign of Lappeenranta being a green city. But the carbon footprint of the residents of Lappeenranta is reduced even more by the Kaukas Power Plant, which utilises wood-based fuels and meets the majority of the city’s district heating needs.

Whenever the city is expanded, the planning of new construction is based on close proximity to services and existing infrastructure.

It is in the best interest of everyone in Lappeenranta to protect the Pien-Saimaa area. The largest project to date, the construction of the Kivisalmi Pumping Station, has attracted wide interest.

In 2014, Lappeenranta was one of the 14 best cities in the international WWF Earth Hour City Challenge that measured the candidates’ actions in addressing climate change.

Greenreality concept (at greenreality.fi)  is a virtual window onto Lappeenranta’s broad expertise in the green sector.

Reinventing the city centre

In the centre of Lappeenranta, the combination of opportunities for shopping, versatile cultural services, the historic old town, the harbour and lakeside nature offers an experience that should not be missed.

Many ongoing construction projects in Lappeenranta show how the city is being developed strategically. We are building an attractive city centre that will make people want to live, take part in the community and various activities as well as shop in Lappeenranta.

The goal is to create a pleasant, pedestrian-friendly city centre where smart public transport and parking solutions, excellent pedestrian and bicycle routes and green areas form a harmonious whole.

Lappeenranta is a vibrant, modern cradle of Karelian culture, with a strong focus on developing new and existing cultural events and activities. Located on top of a shopping centre, the new Lappeenranta City Theatre is paving the way for future theatres, and in the old town, inside the Fortress, the House of Correction exudes Karelian vitality.