There has been increasing attention paid in the regional economic literature to how local rural actors are being actively engaged in globalisation processes. The bulk of this literature is concerned with rural areas which are proximate to large urban centres and feature somewhat mixed economies. ‘Resource peripheries’ in places like the Arctic and sub-Arctic north of Europe and North America, South America and Australasia have received less attention. Resource peripheries are seen as inherently dependent on external agents who control economic activity and markets for resource commodities. This paper argues that an apparent diminution of local agency in the shaping of relational space in resource peripheries may be a result of no attempt to find such agency. The paper discusses the reconfiguring of northern economies within ‘relational space’ that has occurred over the past 10 or 20 years, using the case of the two northern-most counties in Sweden (Västerbotten and Norrbotten) as an illustrative example. The case demonstrates the layers of activity that occur within these regions (intra-regional) and between northern and distant regions (inter-regional). It argues that these activities may be both institutional (based on regulations and formal arrangements) and functional. By using the example of North Sweden, the paper introduces a conceptual framework, labelled ARTE, which provides a useful support for making sense of the multi-dimensional processes that contemporary northern development is engaged in.