The history of Junnikkala Sawmill

Junnikkala Sawmill was founded on 16 August 1960, with premises at Sahantie 1 in Kalajoki, Finland. That has been the address of the company’s head office ever since.

A new era launched by occupational accident

In autumn 1953, Aarne Akseli Junnikkala suffered an occupational accident: the shoulder straps of his excessively large overalls became caught in a drill. His job was to drill wooden water pipes in Kalajoki.

Aarne had to spend days in hospital, and his wife Hilma was left to look after the family farm with the couple’s nine children. The responsibility of providing for the family fell to Ismo, the eldest son. He started working for other farmers while also keeping the family’s own farm going.

Bold investment in Northern Finland

Towards the end of the 1950s, Ismo was working around the clock. He decided to buy a Fordson half-tracked tractor, the most advanced tractor of its time. Ismo started working for the Finnish National Board of Forestry. His job took him and his tractor to Kittilä, in Lapland. He headed north each autumn when the work in the fields at home was done, then drove his tractor back again in the spring. During the winter, Ismo sent money to his family in Kalajoki.

The beginning of Junnikkala Sawmill

In May 1959, Ismo Junnikkala was driving his tractor from Lapland to Kalajoki when he suffered a puncture only 20 kilometres from home. He spent that May night sleeping on a ditch bank and decided that he would not be travelling to Lapland anymore. He decided to start a business of his own instead, and sawing of timber at Sahantie 1 in Kalajoki began in autumn 1960.

Growth, thanks to Ismo’s brothers

Junnikkala Sawmill grew at a steady pace, competing with another local sawmill, A. Santaholma Osakeyhtiö. Later, in the early 1970s, Ismo’s younger brothers Ilpo and Heikki joined the family business.

Opportunity ignited by a forest fire

The company’s growth was encouraged by a large forest fire in Kalajoki. The Junnikkala brothers decided to buy the charred logs for their sawmill – no one else had the courage. They earned a large amount of money with the forest-fire logs and made investments that further accelerated the growth of the business.

The first exports from Kalajoki to England

In 1972, the Junnikkala brothers engaged in foreign trade for the first time when their sawn goods set off for England from the harbour in Kalajoki. In addition to launching international business, the early 1970s saw the brothers in Kalajoki engaging in further processing of timber products, which sold well locally.

Local confusion stirred by Junnikkala’s investments

In 1979, the brothers decided to build a bark-fired boiler plant at the sawmill. This was something new in 1970s Finland, and many doubted the success potential of the project. Artificial drying of bark was unknown in the industry at that time. However, Ismo, Ilpo and Heikki Junnikkala had faith in their project. In combination with the new drying kilns, the artificial drying plant enabled increased sales of sawn timber.

The Junnikkala sawmill burns down twice

The Junnikkala sawmill in Kalajoki suffered its first fire in the 1970s, when the bark-storage area caught fire. Ismo broke his leg in two places during his efforts to extinguish the blaze, and his leg was in a plaster for a year.

The second fire occurred in March 1980. The fire was a major setback for the whole region, and it had a significant local impact. However, the Junnikkala brothers didn't give up, and it was not long before they decided to build a new sawmill. The new, Ahlström-built sawmill, with an Otso-700 frame saw line, went live in autumn of the same year, only months after the March fire.

The new sawmill tripled the production volume of Junnikkala Sawmill.

Investments matching the needs of the house-construction industry

In 1987, the Junnikkala brothers invested in a larger planing plant in order to respond to the needs of customers in the field of house construction. Meanwhile, the company increased the share of exports to a full 50 per cent of the sawmill’s turnover.

The family company continued to grow, and new local sales offices were established in Raahe's Lapaluoto area and Ylivieska.

Depression’s effects on Kalajoki

Finland did not escape the economic depression of the early 1990s, which brought a halt to the company's growth. The investments made in the house-construction industry lost their significance for a time, as the order book dried up and local house construction disappeared practically overnight. As were so many other companies, Junnikkala was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. What saved the company was the fact that Ismo Junnikkala had not taken out loans in foreign currency for the company, and business could continue notwithstanding the depression.

Nor did economic hard times shake investors’ faith in Junnikkala Sawmill. The company made investments that enabled an increase in production. Finland rose from the depression, exports recovered, and the Junnikkala brothers once again invested in the house-construction industry.

Changes at Junnikkala Sawmill

In 1992, Ismo Junnikkala became seriously ill. He entered retirement, and Heikki was appointed as the managing director of the family company.

Production of sawn timber was increased to 100,000 cubic metres after the sawing line and drying plant were modernised and a bio-heating plant was built in 1998.

Heat for Kalajoki and investment in house construction

In the 2000s, the Junnikkala heating plant started to supply heat to the town of Kalajoki. The bioenergy produced by Junnikkala soon accounted for 80 per cent of the heat energy consumed by the community. The Junnikkala brothers decided to make investments focused on the house-construction industry, and the company established a further processing plant and a heavy-duty planing line. The state-of-the-art surface-treatment line for exterior cladding responded to customer needs in the house-construction industry.

A change of generation in Kalajoki

In 2002, Ismo and Ilpo decided that it was time for a change of generation at Junnikkala. Heikki stayed on as managing director, but Ilpo and Ismo were replaced as owners by their children: Juha and Johanna Junnikkala (Ismo’s son and daughter) and Kalle and Veli-Matti Junnikkala (Ilpo’s sons). Ismo and Ilpo asked their children whether this was the career they wanted, and all of them were certain about their choice – the call of the forest was strong. In 2003, Juha was appointed as the managing director of Junnikkala, and the family company in Kalajoki continued to grow under the leadership of a second generation.

With structural rearrangements in 2008, Ruukki Group Plc became the owner of the Kalajoki sawmill, and Heikki Junnikkala sold his share in the company. The change made it possible to buy Pyyn Saha ja Höyläämö, a sawmill and planing plant in Oulainen. Janne Pyy became a co-owner through an exchange of shares. In connection with the changes in ownership, the company launched a major investment programme worth EUR 14.5 million.

Back to the company's roots during the 2000s depression

Depression struck Finland in 2008, while Junnikkala’s investment programme was still in progress. Ruukki wanted to abandon mechanical wood processing. Junnikkala Oy purchased Ruukki’s shares in the company in 2011, thus becoming a family company once more.

Sights on Japan and Korea

A decision to build new sawing lines for Junnikkala was made with export operations in mind. The previous managing director, Juha Junnikkala, joined the Junnikkala Oy Board of Directors. His sister Johanna Junnikkala and Kalle’s brother Veli-Matti Junnikkala too are on the Board.

Kalle Junnikkala in the managing director’s seat

In 2012, Ilpo Junnikkala’s son Kalle was appointed as managing director. The previous managing director, Juha Junnikkala, joined the Junnikkala Oy Board of Directors. His sister Johanna Junnikkala and Kalle’s brother Veli-Matti Junnikkala too are on the Board.

Continued growth for Junnikkala

In the 2010s, Junnikkala increased its heating-production capacity in Oulainen. The company’s production volume was doubled with investment in the sorting of dry goods and a drying plant. From the very beginning to the present day, the family company has continued to grow with the support of its small wood-supply team. Junnikkala’s compact Forestry Department contributes to growth by engaging in active timber trade in Western Finland.

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