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Hyllie – the district that symbolises the Nordic labour market

Hyllie – the district that symbolises the Nordic labour market

| Text: Fayme Alm, photo: Thomas Bertelsen

A private initiative became the beginning of a dynamic district halfway between Malmö Central and Copenhagen Airport. The Eurovision Song Contest was recently staged here and in June, participants this week gathered to celebrate 70 years of the common Nordic labour market.

  • Nobody thought things would turn out the way it did when we began, says the entrepreneur who was first on the ball and refused to let it go.
  • To be able to attract headquarters to the district is a fantastic strength, says Malmö's director of business.
  • Hyllie and Malmö have some of the diversity found in New York, says the economist specialising in entrepreneurship and economic growth.
  • A sudden domino effect says the Mayor of the City of Malmö when discussing Hyllie’s growth.

Potential for growth

The conditions were optimal for a new district in this southern part of Malmö, thought Percy Nilsson, first a carpenter, then a builder, and a long-time entrepreneur.

Percy Nilsson

Percy Nilsson has a view of the Øresund Bridge from his office in Hyllie.

He is referring to the physical proximity to the bridgehead, with plenty of abandoned farmland around what would become Sweden's first and last station for the trains crossing the Öresund. However, it required perseverance on his part before the shovel could be put into the muddy ground.

“For a long while, nothing happened.”

The Nordic Labour Journal is visiting Percy Nilsson at his office in Hyllie. Through one of the windows, we can see the Øresund Bridge – the construction that has been crucial to the integration between Denmark and Sweden and for making the Öresund region the largest labour market in the Nordics. 

Malmö Arena

Malmö Arena was at the very core of the new district. Photo: Tomas Bertelsen.

His office is on the top floor of the same building that houses Malmö Arena. Other offices here house insurance companies, a midwifery clinic and a property company and more. The shared lobby is lively. Many people are on their way to or from some of the businesses. 

Belief in an obvious success

Percy Nilsson presented a general plan for the development of Hyllie to Malmö Municipality as far back as 1997, using physical models of an arena, shopping centre, a bath house, exhibition hall, housing, offices and more. This was how a new district near the bridgehead could look. 

“I had had this idea for some years and knew the decision to build the Øresund Bridge had been made and that funding was in place for the City Tunnel. There was no doubt that this would be a success,” says the entrepreneur who never stopped believing in his proposal. 

He got his inspiration from the USA. When establishing new districts, arenas and shopping centres were also built in order to get the infrastructure up and running, he explains.

“If you build a bridge between two sides, the areas around the bridgeheads will grow. Copenhagen would get Ørestad so my idea was that Malmö would get Hyllie. And to get people to come here you needed something gigantic,” says Percy Nilsson.

Hyllie buildings

It was only after the Öresund Bridge had been built and it became possible to take a train from Copenhagen Airport to Hyllie in 14 minutes that Malmö Municipality showed interest in Percy Nilsson’s plans.

Despite repeated meetings with presentations and models, his proposal – according to him – was not met with enthusiasm from the municipal representatives.

Not until 2001 – the year after the opening of the Öresund Bridge with its motorway and railway – did Malmö Municipality decide to make Hyllie a focus area. Five years later, Percy Nilson purchased land in Hyllie from the municipality. 

Hyllie New York

"Some of  New York's diversity" says the national economist Pontus Braunerhjelm about Hyllie and Malmö. The Emporia shopping centre is on the right. Poto: Tomas Bertelsen.

From muddy fields to modern district

“We spent three years negotiating before we were in business. The municipality did not want an arena or a shopping centre of the scale that I believed was necessary. After repeatedly presenting studies and plans I managed to push the project through,” he says. 

“In the beginning, nobody believed in this and I was forced to sign an agreement with fines worth millions if I did not complete the arena construction.”

Percy Nilsson subdivided the land he had bought and sold a proportion to a Norwegian retail giant that built the popular Emporia which opened in 2012, spanning 93,000 square metres with stores across three levels. It is particularly popular with the Danes.

Emporia interior

Emporia shopping centre in Hyllie. Photo: Björn Lindahl

“In order to build a big arena, I demanded there had to be a large shopping centre. I invested everything I made from selling the land to Emporia in the arena,” says Percy Nilsson. 

The multi arena opened in 2008. It is used for a range of different sports, culture and entertainment events like ice hockey matches, concerts, and show jumping – on a national and international level.  

“The ceiling can support 260 tonnes of technical equipment that can move in different directions to control the lighting effects. This weight capacity exceeds that of any other arena in Sweden,’ says Percy Nilsson.

This technical sophistication is likely one of the reasons why the Eurovision Song Contest was once again held at Malmö Arena. The first time was in 2013. The second time was in May, when the event reached 163 million viewers, according to the EBU

“Hyllie means a lot for Malmö and Emporia makes money from Danish shoppers, who in term save money because of our weak currency.”

Headquarters create ripples

Emporia is far from the only magnet for Hyllie. Many businesses have chosen to set up shop here.

"One reason is that property companies have built modern and functional offices, Micael Nord, Malmö's director of business, tells the Nordic Labour Journal.

Hyllie Terrace

“We have also seen that businesses increasingly choose to set up their headquarters in Hyllie, partly because of the proximity to Copenhagen and its airport, the largest in the Nordics and one of the largest in Northern Europe,” he says, and points to the synergy effects from hosting headquarters.

“They attract other parts of the business community and can create clusters as well as establish other services in the region,” he says.

The business expansion in Malmö is visible within banking, finance and insurance, the director of business explains. 

"The expertise in these industries is present in Malmö, and it's easy to commute to Hyllie both by public transport and other means," he says.

Local cooperation

Local businesses also see development opportunities in the district. Here, the businesses have come together in Hyllie City cooperation, and write on their website:

“Many companies choose to establish themselves here, precisely for the enormous expansion possibilities and the opportunity to build a large network of an international nature.” 

Micael Nord is very happy that Hyllie businesses organise to develop both their own companies and the district.

"Collaborative actors demonstrating that we can achieve this together is good for the municipality, and the fact that the business community here has created its own vision shows a forward-looking ambition," he says.

2024 Eurovision Song Contest

The Eurovision Song Contest was staged in Malmö Arena for a second time in 2024. Photo: Alma Bengtsson, EBU.

The events that the Malmömässan (the Malmö Fair) continuously hosts [including labour market-related ones - Ed.] and the large events at Malmö Arena are significant in a larger context, not just for Hyllie, points out Micael Nord.

“They are engines for the entire business community in the city and are incredibly important for all of Sweden. Just take the recent Eurovision Song Contest. For such a mega-event, the combination of Malmö Arena and Malmömässan is outstanding from both a Swedish and Northern European perspective,” he says.

Diversity strengthens entrepreneurship

Pontus Braunerhjelm, talking to the Nordic Labour Journal, offers a personal reflection on Malmö's and thereby Hyllie's opportunities.

He is a professor of economics with a focus on entrepreneurship and economic growth and was part of the Growth Commission that Malmö's municipal council appointed in 2021 to "develop an analytical and scientific basis with proposals and recommendations to improve the conditions for inclusive and sustainable growth in Malmö in the medium and long term." 

Research on innovation 

“Research has shown that societies characterised by diversity often have a higher capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship. Many nationalities are represented in Malmö municipality, and some of the residents come from cultures where starting businesses is common. 

Mother and Child

Even the culture – here represented by Charlotte Gyllenhammar's fountain"Mother and Child", which opened in the summer of 2014 – has a feel of big city grandiosity. The child blows bubbles under the water in a different fountain a few hundred metres away. Photo: Tomas Bertelsen.

“There is a similarity with New York in that the average age is low in both places. Of course, this can also bring some problems; the outcome is influenced by policy design. However, it is a good foundation,” says Pontus Braunerhjelm.

Generally, he says, a capital region can be attractive and bring in both capital and talent, while nearby communities become interesting due to lower land prices, making it easier for businesses to set up shop because costs are lower. 

“The Öresund region is an extremely interesting region with a population of 4.5 million. Malmö and Hyllie are part of this, with their specific characteristics such as the proximity to Copenhagen Airport and opportunities for specialisation, such as the establishment of knowledge-intensive companies, which is particularly interesting since Malmö was previously an industrial city.”

Pontus Braunerhjelm also points to how one single initiative can put in motion a chain of proactive actions. 

"The dynamic environment in Hyllie demonstrates what a single initiative can mean in the long run. The Öresund Bridge was the first. Then several others followed," he says.

One of the many initiatives worth mentioning is the Junior Achievement (UF) fair. This spring, the fair was held for the tenth time, at Emporia in Hyllie. Along the corridors of the shopping centre, booths were set up for three days where 390 UF companies and 1,400 UF entrepreneurs from 50 different colleges in Skåne showcased their businesses and entrepreneurship, alongside various lectures.

Perhaps some of them will establish themselves in Hyllie. The district is not yet fully developed. 

Good transport, bigger labour market

“Hyllie is still being built and we think that by 2040, 25,000 people will live here and 15,000 people will be working here,” says Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh.

Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh

Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh. Photo: Malmö Municipality.

She has been the mayor of Malmö Municipality since 2013. According to statistics from the Hyllie City cooperation, 8,500 people live in Hyllie today, and 11,000 people work here. 

"Hyllie came into existence due to several parameters. When the construction of the Öresund Bridge was planned, assessments were made regarding both passenger and freight transport. Malmö Central needed a solution to allow trains to pass through the city, and that’s why the City Tunnel was built, which in turn got a station at Hyllie," says Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh.

The infrastructure projects coincided with Malmö being in a phase of population growth, and the municipality wanted to leverage the potential that these projects offered, Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh explains. 

“Hyllie got off to a slow start. Percys arena and Emporia came first, but residential construction took time to get started. Once it did, it created a sudden domino effect. If I went out to Hyllie two days in a row, the buildings would have gained a few floors by the second day.”

"The results of the investment in a new district are clear," argues Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh. 

"The City Tunnel, with excellent train connections directly from Hyllie to Denmark as well as to Gothenburg, Kalmar, and Karlskrona in Sweden, has expanded the labour market in the region."

Hyllie fountain

Creating a well-functioning neighbourhood also involves housing, ensuring that those growing up in Hyllie have a pleasant environment. Foto: Tomas Bertelsen.

The tunnel also links the different parts of the municipality together, and there are now eight train stations.

"Malmö has experienced stronger growth, which correlates with our continued high influx of new residents. Last year, more people moved to Malmö than to Stockholm. People are moving here from across Skåne and from all over Sweden," she says. 

Sustainability and culture

Optimism for the future shines clearly through when Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh talks about Hyllie. It is a future imbued with sustainability. The Embassy of Sharing, a new neighbourhood nearing completion, is proof of this.

Each of the houses there will focus on one or several of the global sustainable development goals adopted by the world’s heads of state and governments in 2017.


Kulturfyren i Hyllie. Photo: Björn Lindahl

In one of the seven properties, Kulturfyren will open this autumn. It will house three enterprises: the Hyllie Library, Dawit Isaak Library for forbidden culture, and Work in Progress, a meeting place for young creators.

Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh is happy that there is investment also in non-commercial ventures in Hyllie, and she is content with the overall development happening in the district. 

She is also satisfied with the flexibility the municipality enjoys when driving forward this development. 

She concludes our interview by saying that she is in a position envied by many others who inhabit similar roles. 

Hyllie from the air

From the air it becomes clear just how close Hyllie is to the Øresund Bridge. Photo:

“Beyond Hyllie’s expansion over the next 20 years, the development in the harbours Nyhamnen and Mellersta Hamnen in central Malmö is picking up pace. For a municipal mayor, it is a dream come true to have so much land so close to build on.” 

Finally, we have to ask Percy Nilsson, the man who was first on the ball and refused to let go before the project got going: Did Hyllie turn out as you had envisioned?

"It wasn't a walk in the park, but it turned out well in the end," responds Percy Nilsson.

Close whether you live in Denmark or Sweden

Hyllie is particularly attractive thanks to good commuting options – the train to Malmö Central takes seven minutes and Copenhagen Airport is only 14 minutes away. In the background, the Öresund Bridge is visible. To the right in the picture is Malmö Arena, and the tallest building, at 110 meters, is The Point, which houses both a hotel and offices. There are some 8,000 workplaces in Hyllie at the moment. This number is expected to double by 2040.

Read more about Hyllie's development (in Swedish):

The Nordic Labour market at 70

The 70th anniversary of the common Nordic labour market will be celebrated on 18 and 19 June with a two-day conference in Hyllie, as part of Sweden's Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. Nordregio will present a report on the origin and future of the common labour market.


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