Superior vs. the Range: Business North explores Magnetation story

Business North has an update on the Magnetation pellet plant discussed here yesterday. Their sources place Superior, Wisconsin, as a leading contender for the facility, though it sounds like the deal is not yet done and Itasca County remains a logical candidate as well.

It could be that the smokestack chasing and economic development gamesmanship of the past 20 years has finally come to this: a reality TV show.

I’ll have more on Superior’s recent string of economic development successes in a future post.


  1. “A reality tv show?” Not so Aaron. If Lehtinen makes enough wrong decisions, the paycheck stops coming in, unlike with public sector employees. Lehtinen is simply stating the facts. Minnesota is not as business friendly as other states. Open your eyes.

    “Matthew Lehtinen, Magnetation’s president and chief operations officer, said the company is impressed by Wisconsin’s “open business climate.” CEO Larry Lehtinen indicated to BusinessNorth via email that fast permitting may put Superior as well as Indiana and Illinois at a distinct advantage over a possible Iron Range site in Itasca County, Minn”.

    Yes, business is a game but it’s played with real money, the owners own money, not food stamps.

  2. Magnetation feeds a story to WDIO indicating they are looking at four sites. Then they wait while the four sites fall over themselves putting permits and financial packages together to “woo” the company. That’s more of a reality TV model, is my point.

    Of course, they’ll just go where it’s cheapest. That’s business.

    While you’re riding your high private sector horse remember that Lehtinen’s company has benefited from public/private partnerships on the Range. The big mining companies had no interest in helping them, but the IRRRB took a bit of a gamble on value added products.

    Now, that does not preclude them from building a plant anywhere they want. As I’ve said before, Superior has a logical argument just as the Range does. But there are a lot of factors involved, most important among them cost and logistics. I am told that Wisconsin has a faster permitting process, but I can’t speak to that comparison. Permitting always takes time, and the federal permits are generally the ones that hold you up anyway.

    Your last sentence is talk radio bile. Who’s talking about food stamps? You’re talking about food stamps. This is a right wing talking point that indicates a pathological disgust with poor people that I do not share.

  3. You read way more into the term food stamps than you should Aaron. I’m just a simple, hard-working Iron Ranger.

    Food stamps are a currency, no more, no less. Food stamps are free, not earned. Food stamps = 100% someone elses money.

    Oh…businesses, those which are long lasting, certainly don’t simply go “where it’s cheapest”. They go where it makes business sense. But those who’ve never run a business, inherently don’t have business sense. So…you’re forgiven.

  4. I think it’s a statement in code, but, indeed, “forgive me” if I misread. If there is such a thing as ‘corporate’ food stamps, then Magnetation has enjoyed the benefits of such a program. So, too, have many companies who make decisions based on regional desperation (ie: tax credits, sweetheart loans and regulatory shortcuts).

    I don’t oppose food stamps as a way to help the poor, especially the working poor, nor do I oppose programs to help companies get going or expand. I actually admire the innovation Larry has shown in starting Iron Nugget and Magnetation. He should be rewarded for that, and indeed is doing quite well selling his products.

    I’ve got a problem with companies pitting taxpayer interests against one another. I don’t know that this is what’s happening here, but it seems that way. Hence the original comment.

    Perhaps you’ve forgotten the dozens of times I’ve mentioned that I come from a family of small business owners that goes back generations. I don’t personally own a business that employs people, but my wife runs her blog as a business and I do a lot of independent contractor work in addition to my public sector job. Point is, I get business, especially small business.

    We disagree about some things. Not all things. You don’t have to lecture me as though you have some supreme knowledge. We simply disagree about the role of government, a topic we’ve hashed over countless times … in this case I’m not even sure what we’re arguing about. Words, I guess. Tone, maybe.

    You are right in that businesses factor many things in where to locate. Where it’s cheapest is a big factor, but so too is livability, workforce and customers. In this case, and I’ll be writing more on this, Superior is pretty similar to the Range except for its proximity to Duluth, which is enjoying a better and more diversified economy than the Range. Superior is leveraging its ability to tap Wisconsin’s state economic efforts, still enamored with mining as a novelty (as opposed to the longstanding part of the economy it represents in Minnesota) and all the advantages of doing business with a well-educated, relatively happy Twin Ports workforce. A lot of government money was pooled with private capital to make this reality.

  5. You nailed it Aaron- “Superior is leveraging its ability to tap Wisconsin’s state economic efforts”.

    WSJ 1-27-2012
    “In Wisconsin, the evidence is mounting that Mr. Walker hasn’t brought economic Armageddon but financial stability. Last year’s $3 billion deficit is now a $300 million surplus—and it was accomplished without the new taxes that unions favored. “If a business is failing, you don’t raise the prices on your customers,” Mr. Walker scoffs.

    In addition to union reform, Mr. Walker and his allies in the legislature passed a statewide school voucher program, eased business regulation, and enacted tort reform. When Illinois raised its income taxes by 67%, he launched a PR campaign urging Illinois businesses to “escape to Wisconsin.”

    When Mr. Walker took office, a survey of major business owners found that only 10% thought Wisconsin was heading “in the right direction.” Now 94% say it is. Chief Executive magazine found that Wisconsin’s business climate in 2011 showed the greatest one-year improvement of any state in the history of the magazine’s ratings. After bleeding 150,000 jobs in the previous three years, Wisconsin added 10,000 jobs in 2011″.

  6. From the Wednesday Feb. 1, 2012 Duluth News Tribune Magnetation article – “we’ll show him (Lehtinen), we’ll raise his taxes” – Anzlec and Rukavina.

    Contrast that tired, old DFL rhetoric to what’s coming out of Wisconsin and the majority of other states. The Range is screwed for another decade with thinking like this.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.