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Nokia Town Faces Dim Future As Jobs Shift To Asia


SALO, Finland (AP) â¿¿ Tomi Marjuaho repaired mobile phones for 10 years in the town of Salo in southern Finland, where Nokia, the world's top cell phone-maker, set up its wireless operations in the 1980s.

He took a severance package in 2010, as Nokia started hitting hard times, and has not found work since.

"I was the breadwinner in the family, and now it's difficult making ends meet," the 39-year-old said, at the local metal workers union club which is used by the town's unemployed as a meeting place. "It's the same story for so many people I know from Nokia days."

Salo â¿¿ along with other Finnish towns inextricably linked to Nokia â¿¿ is facing an uncertain future as Finland's most famous corporation shifts its mobile phone assembly to Asia.

Squeezed by fierce competition from Apple Inc.'s iPhone, Samsung Electronics and cheaper brands running Google Inc.'s popular Android software, Nokia has been forced to slash costs, primarily affecting its operations in Europe.

Nokia has already closed plants in Germany, Hungary and Romania; and now it's the turn of the Finnish assembly plant. Some 1,000 of the 3,500 jobs in Salo â¿¿ which until recently was Nokia's flagship assembly hub â¿¿ are being cut this year. The once-thriving technological center has already become a town of dusty, empty storefronts.

"The latest layoffs will hit us hard," said Salo's mayor, Antti Rantakokko.

He has a shiny office in a glass-plate and metal building that opened four months ago, partly paid for by Nokia's local taxes, which accounted for 95 percent of the town's corporate tax income that peaked at ⿬60 million ($78.85 million) in 2010.

"Nokia has been a status symbol for us, but more than that it has been a major source of income," Rantakokko said.

The company began as a paper-maker in the 1890s, and later made rubber products, cables and televisions before it came to Salo â¿¿ a center for Finland's electronics industry since the 1920s â¿¿ in 1983.

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