Tapojärvi has developped from a transport company to a specialist in mining and factory services and a pioneer in the circular economy. Finnish work ethic and the know-how brought by northern weather conditions are highly valued in the global market.
Esko Tapojärvi bought his first Pobeda in Kolari in 1955 and started offering transport services with it. From taxi services, Tapojärvi switched to transporting milk and then to transporting gravel to road construction sites around Lapland.
The number of cars and staff increased together with the workload. From the beginning, Tapojärvi’s own family was also involved in the business. His wife Orvokki took care of the paperwork with the help of their daughters. Boys learned to work on the machinery side.
65 years after starting the business, Tapojärvi Ltd is the market leader in mining and one of the largest employers in Northern Finland. It has grown from a one-man company providing transportation services to a versatile specialist in mining and factory services.
Regardless of the growth, Tapojärvi has remained a family business. The company may already have about 600 employees, but it still strives to operate like a family. That has always felt natural for the Kolari-based family, as caring for one’s neighbour has a long tradition in Lapland.
– We have grown to take care not only of our own family, but also of the people around. In the same way we feel that it is self-evident to take responsibility for our employees and the people living nearby. More than a hundred of our employees have worked for us for more than ten years. It tells me a lot about what kind of employer we are, the granddaughter of Esko Tapojärvi, acting CEO Mari Pilventö says.
Circular economy is the future
Responsibility also extends to the environment. The company has been awarded as the world’s best slag handler and in 2019 was awarded the International Slag Treatment Technological Innovation Award. In the same year, Tapojärvi received the Entrepreneur of the Year award in Finland. The award came above all from investing in the circular economy.
Tapojärvi Ltd has grown into a pioneer in the industrial circular economy, largely following the needs of its customers. The mining industry became an important customer base as early as the 1970s. In the 1990s, Tapojärvi began contracting first to Outokumpu’s Elijärvi mine near Kemi and later to Outokumpu’s steel plant in Tornio, where operations began to expand towards slag treatment.
In the mining industry, sustainable development and the importance of the circular economy have been growing steadily. It is no longer enough to transport stone and metals, but one must also invest in the efficient recycling of materials. It has forced companies to develop new ways of doing things.
– The circular economy has been one of our most important areas since the beginning. As the importance of sustainable business has grown in the global business field, the industrial circular economy has brought new opportunities for us as well. We have a lot of expertise in the house, which we can also utilize in other services, Pilventö says.
If the solution works in Lapland, it will work elsewhere too
Tapojärvi has more than ten work sites across Finland and Europe. However, a large part of the company’s operations are still concentrated in northern Finland, where Tapojärvi now also owns two slag valorisation plants. A third slag valorisation plant is under construction in Italy.
The headquarters in Tornio is the heart of the company. The northern location is natural for Tapojärvi. The company has started operations in Western Lapland and the region is still important to it, as the process industry based on natural resources is largely concentrated in the north.
– In Tornio, we are close to our customers. Here, northern Sweden is also our home field. After all, Finland is an island when viewed from abroad, and from our point of view, Helsinki would be even more remote in that sense, Pilventö explains.
When doing business around the world Pilventö has noticed that, as a Finnish company, they have a good reputation. The way Finns act is trusted.
– Finns stay in the facts and take care of things as agreed. Work ethic is good. Santa Claus is also known in every corner of the world. Mentioning it and the Arctic Circle helps many outline where we come from.
From a technological point of view, the northern location is also an advantage. The weather conditions in Finnish Lapland are well known. That brings a special perspective to the company’s expertise.
– The Arctic Circle is evoking Arctic connotations as close as in Central Europe. Severe weather conditions give credibility. Customers know that if a solution works in these conditions, it will work everywhere.
The northern mentality is doing well in the global market
Tapojärvi Ltd invests heavily in research and development. Particular attention is being paid to industrial circular economy solutions – products and services – for which needs and new markets are now opening up at a rapid pace. The strong growth of Tapojärvi has been possible precisely thanks to continuous development and skilled personnel.
In Tornio and elsewhere in northern Finland, close co-operation with educational institutions in the area has helped to recruit professionals. Sea Lapland area has responded to the needs of the mining industry by increasing training in the mining industry. One can study the mining industry from a bachelor’s degree to an engineering degree.
– We go to tell students what kind of work we do and what kind of career opportunities we have. We want to convey the idea that there are job opportunities in the north as well, you don’t always have to go to bigger cities, Pilventö says.
She believes that the conditions in Lapland and mentality of the North have had a great impact on how Tapojärvi has developed into a leading expert in its field and how it will continue to succeed.
– The challenges here have always been an order of magnitude greater. There has been a need to pinch and use resources efficiently. It has brought know-how and competitiveness to the global market.
– And if anyone has ever thought that Lapland is remote from the global market, at the moment it can already be said that no place in the world is more remote than any other. The global market can be found right here on our own backyard.
Tapojärvi Ltd is A 65-year-old family business based in Norhern Finland. The company’s core competencies are mining and factory services as well as circular economy. Tapojärvi invests a significant part of the company’s cash flow in product development together with industry and research institutes and companies. Tapojärvi is one of the largest employers in Northern Finland with 600 employees working in 13 different locations across Europe. The company’s turnover is EUR 115.7 million.