Luleå of today is the result of the municipal amalgamation of 1969. In that year the municipalities of Luleå City, Nederluleå and Råneå were united to form the large Municipality of Luleå, stretching over an area of 1,810 km2.
The coat of arms of the three previous municipalities included a key, the symbol of Peter the Apostle, a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. In the 15th century Gammelstad Church was consecrated in the honour of St Peter. The symbol is therefore unusually suitable for Luleå. Moreover, in former times, fishing was the main source of livelihood in this area.Luleå was founded in 1621 around the medieval church in Gammelstad.
The city was an important commercial centre even then, with maritime trade with ports in the south, in particular Stockholm. However, the harbour in Gammelstad did not satisfy the demands made by an expanding maritime trade, and the city had to be moved in 1649 ten kilometres to its present site. Nevertheless, some of the citizens refused to abandon Gammelstad. The King had to resort to a decree to force them to move to the new city. Trading with fish, leather, wood and tar continued.
The new city developed slowly, and right up to the end of the 18th century there was rather a village atmosphere to Luleå. It is possible that the ravages of Russian Cossacks and others, as well as the devastation of several big fires might have been decisive obstacles to the city's development. It would take more than another half century before venture capital from the south would pave the way for industrial activity here.
Karl Fredrik Liljevalch invested money in a shipyard. He was soon followed by Christian Gültzau among others. Several shipbuilders established great yards in different parts of the city and produced vessels of high class. When steamships put an end to the era of sailingships, production at the shipyards gradually ceased.
The shipbuilders were to be followed by others later on. Attempts to refine the Lapland ore attracted pertinacious metallurgists to the County of Norrbotten, and the traces of their toils can be seen in several places in Luleå. In the Vitå, Råne and Lule River Valleys one can see the remains left behind by those pioneers of iron production.
Having themselves ended up in financial ruin, they were forced to leave the ruins of their smelting-works behind them. The "Ore Railway" changed the economic prerequisites for iron production and Luleå Ironworks was inaugurated in Karlsvik in 1906. Its history, however, became a short one.
In the 1940s the Norrbotten Ironworks was built up and came to play an important role for Luleå and the whole of the County of Norrbotten. It is nowadays known as SSAB Luleå (Swedish Steel Co. Ltd, Luleå Steelworks) and is one of the most modern steelworks in Europe.
Dynamic centre in the north
Luleå is the seat of the Norrbotten County Administration and has a population of about 77,000. The city has developed into a technological centre in the North of Sweden. The most important corner stones of this development are metallurgy, education and research, as well as good communications.
Luleå University of Technology has played an important role. The university consists of a School of Engineering, a School of Business, a School of Education and a School of Music. Situated close to the University Campus is Luleå Science Park. The Science Park houses companies whose activities are connected with the university's spheres of interests.
Many of the companies are spin off effects from research projects which turned into profitable business schemes.