But their hopes were crushed last week when Microsoft announced it would close Nokia's former product development unit in the town, putting all 1,100 jobs at risk. Last year the U.S. company had said it could hire more staff in Salo.
The decline of Finland's electronics industry as Nokia lost competitiveness against peers Apple and Samsung, along with falling global demand for paper products and EU sanctions on neighbouring Russia, have entrenched the Scandinavian country in a three-year recession.
Towns like Salo, home to one of Nokia's first factories set up in the 1970s, have been particularly hard hit.
Prime Minister Juha Sipila called Microsoft's decision last week "a big blow," and visited Salo on Monday to hear from locals how the government could best help the town.
A former engineer and telecoms executive, Sipila was elected in April on a promise to balance Finland's budget, cut bureaucracy and lower taxes for small companies.
He has advocated the role of entrepreneurship in getting Finland back on track, but that may be a tough transition for an economy that became so dependent on Nokia.
Ten years ago, Nokia's operations in Salo employed 5,000 people and even in 2008, over a fifth of all jobs in the area were within information technology.
Today Salo's unemployment rate stands at 15 percent, well above the national rate of 9.7 percent, following the closure of a Nokia factory in 2012 and previous Microsoft layoffs. Closing the product development unit could push it up to 20 percent.
Finnish politicians expressed their solidarity with Salo on social media.
Microsoft said that, under its new strategy, the company would cut the range of smart phones it sells and so would not need three development sites in Finland.
Two Finnish sites, in Espoo and Tampere, will remain open, but of its 3,200 employees in Finland, only 900 may survive after negotiations between Microsoft and Finnish employees, expected to start later this month.