Range business, gov’t leaders call for summit

IMAGE: Aaron J. Brown, based on iconic Benjamin Franklin political cartoon

IMAGE: Aaron J. Brown, based on iconic Benjamin Franklin political cartoon

In Sunday’s paper, the Mesabi Daily News published a story about the fact that Minnesota Power (Allete) executive Al Hodnick, former State Sen. Doug Johnson and IRRRB Commissioner Mark Phillips were joining to call for an Iron Range economic summit.

From the Bill Hanna story:

Hodnik wants an Iron Range economic summit soon to provide the region with more focus and success in job development to diversify the area’s economy.

And Hodnik has a willing ally in former state Sen. Doug Johnson, who was a legislator for more than 30 years and the powerful chairman of the Senate Tax Committee for two decades.

In addition, Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board Commissioner Mark Phillips is also on board.

“I support Al Hodnik’s request for the IRRRB to hold an Iron Range economic summit this summer or fall.

There is a job crisis that has been building for more than 30 years. Al and I, as former Range mayors, have seen the devastation from plant closings in our communities,” Johnson said in a telephone interview.

The image at the top of this post was something I created for a series of pieces during the economic downturn of 2008-2009. I used it to float my concept of an Iron Range Congress for economic reforms and in a more general call for an end to parochial thinking on the Range. Though my suggestions in those posts have not yet come to fruition, I would argue that both posts are just as appropriate now as they were in 2009.

I came out again in 2011 with a more specific concept for economic diversification. That was when the mines had reopened and were going gangbusters. Now they’ve sputtered out again and the cycle has repeated. I’ve written no fewer than 100 pieces about economic diversification on the Iron Range since. Some of them are good, but I strongly suspect that I’ve repeated myself on a number of occasions.

So yeah, I am most definitely supportive of the Hodnik/Johnson/Phillips economic summit idea. My only concern and my strongest suggestion is that such an event be designed with a focus on actionable items and welcoming all stakeholders in the region, including ones that don’t necessarily get along with each other. In fact, that kind of tension is vital to creating a sense of shared purpose.

Attracting new types of businesses to the Range is something that has near universal agreement, but that’s an idea that’s much easier to discuss than act on. The fact that our region is unattractive to potential residents and entrepreneurs is very controversial. In fact, suggesting so is “fightin’ words.” But if you can approach this flaw as a working premise, we see many ways that we can actually do something that makes life here better.

We might not be able to convince a Fortune 500 company to drop $500 million and 900 jobs all at once, but we can repair blight, encourage cultural activity, deploy public art, improve educational curriculum and support expansion of existing businesses into new products and services. When our communities improve, they become more attractive to the kinds of companies everyone wants, and increase our chances of luring (or growing!) an entrepreneur looking to start an economic trend in a good place to live.

Bring on the summit. Invite everyone. Think big. Don’t leave until everyone has something to do and the expectation that they do it.


  1. John Ramos says

    Put up a billboard saying you’re the craft beer capital of Minnesota and you’ll get all kinds of publicity.

  2. Ranger47 says

    Before Melin and the boys get together and hold their Economic Summit at the new $12 million Giant Ridge convention center, ask them to agree on the criteria a company or entrepreneur uses when deciding to invest. Then rate the Range on this criteria and put up a billboard next to Johns showing where the Range is strong…and where it’s weak.

    I’ll help the Summit get started: KEY FACTORS WHEN MAKING CAPITAL INVESTMENTS

    1) Operating costs
    Competitive labor & benefit costs
    Competitive tax structure
    Low utility costs
    Effective but competitive regulatory costs
    Low in and out bound transportation cost
    Raw material availability at competitive costs
    2) Work force
    Positive work attitude
    Open to work variable schedules
    Willing to work with management to improve productivity, reduce waste
    3) Living Environment
    Pride in community
    Low crime rate
    Community active in civic affairs
    Active churches
    Arts & entertainment
    4) Good secondary and post secondary education system
    5) Pro or anti-business environment

    You’ve always had a strong interest in #3 & #4, so you can run that committee (along with RAMS), Hodnick can chair #1, Anzelc can pull a group of his buddies together and work on #2 and Bakk can handle #5. Meeting ajourned. What time do we tee off?

    Oh…Melin can drive the drink cart.

    • Carly Melin says

      Iron Range women provide valuable input on the quality of life on the range, including economic diversification, education, and opportunity. We are capable of more than just driving a drink cart around for “the boys.”

      Iron Range women aren’t just looking for a husband from the city who makes more money and who may be capable of having a substantive conversation (Aaron’s earlier post: “Summer of trials and tribulations”). We are actually interested and capable of having and holding those conversations ourselves.

      Anyway, just my thoughts. I don’t have much more time to respond as I’m only on a lunch break. Have to get back to the law office to pour coffee for the boys.

      On a side note, I respect the girls & women who drive the drink carts and pour the coffee. They often have to put up with jerks like Ranger47.

  3. Thank you for responding, Carly. I’m sorry you had to. Bob, that was a particularly awful comment. I hope you realize that it was way out of line.

  4. Fred Schumacher says

    Years ago, I said that what the Range most needed was an independent four-year college to be the center around which a community of mind could coalesce. Geography and climate set the ground rules for this area, located in the cold center of a large continent. Mining has allowed the region to exceed the natural carrying capacity of this land for people, but only to do so temporarily. The world is littered with abandoned mining towns which suffered through painful depopulation before their end. Because of its isolation, its bucolic setting, its union scale wages and social infrastructure provided by the mines, the Iron Range has had a sense of entitlement to the good life. But every time there’s a lay-off, only half the employees get hired back. Hoping that Polymet will bring back the good old days is a fool’s errand — too few employees and too short a mine life. The Range needs to get better at something that has not been its strong suit, creativity. That’s why it needs an academic setting where ideas can ferment, where assets-based problem solving can be investigated.

  5. Until we hold those responsible for wasting 10’s of millions of dollars on projects funded by IRRRB and demand more, this economic summit might as we’ll be a golf event. I’m glad to see Melin looks at this site, maybe she can do something about the lack of success from IRRRB projects and ask one question, why?? As I’ve stated many times, we are the Detroit of Minnesota up here, 50 yrs of DFL control yet somehow all the failures are someone else’s fault. He’ll, there was no outrage when the IRRRB gave 700,000 bucks to Meyers associates to build a call center to get themselves (DFL only of course) re-elected, talk about hubris!! If the IRRRB was a business you wouldn’t even be able to fire the idiots who run it because you would be out of business so fast they would beat you to it.
    Accountability would be great, a “hey, we are sorry we wasted millions and millions and millions”, would be nice, change is what is needed.

    • Ken, I would gladly offer up my time to provide you with some correct information on the dollar amounts that you speak of. One in particular, the IRRRB did not “give” Meyers associates $700,000. The loan to Meyers (which was not $700,000) was based on several factors,of which none had to do with being a DFL call center. They employed many people for many years, and the economic impact to those folks and the region far outweighed the amount of the loan not recovered. To add, the call center is once again up and running, and hiring more people as we speak. Tell me why that is a bad thing? Checking the facts before commenting is always best..

  6. Ranger47 says

    Sorry Carly…with the proposed Summit being an economic one and with your decision to forego gaining any business experience whatsoever before plunging into a lifetime of politics, it’s difficult figuring out where you fit to lead anything related to business development.

    I suppose you could chair a committee on issue #3, Community Affairs. That’d leave Aaron and RAMS to address education issues, #4. The problem is, Aaron has a passion for sprucing up the Range cities. Maybe you could ask him to be one of your committee members.

    I’m sure we can get Tommy to take a break from his St. Louis county job for a day to drive the drink cart.

  7. That’s an apology, Ranger? Not that I expected you to take responsibility for your misogyny. I feel sorry for the women in your life if there are any.

  8. Ranger47 says

    It’s a thought Fred. We have what…four community colleges up and down the Range today with a total enrollment of under 5,000 students (and declining). I think consolidating those into one four year college which would end up taking students from UMD, Bemidji and St. Cloud would really need to be thought through. We certainly don’t need to keep the four community colleges PLUS another four-year college on the Range. And another Minnesota taxpayer funded four-year liberal think tank is the last thing we need!

  9. Ranger47 says

    Thanks for your concern kissa. As a matter of fact, I’m blessed to have a plethora of women in my life. Their interests are wide ranging, from homemaker, the medical field, the arts/religion, community service and the sciences. (No lawyers or lifetime politicians, thank God!). They’re an amazing diverse group of woman whom I love dearly. I’ve come to draw on and learn from them daily….and occasionally offer them my apologies.

    • Carly Melin says

      Ranger47 (whoever you may be, the comments on this blog are like the onions & orchids section of MDN)

      Why do you thank God none of the women in your life are politicians?

      • Rep. Melin —

        As an attorney I am sure you know the dictate that “when the law is on your side, use the law. When the facts are on your side, use the facts. When neither the law nor the facts are on your side, pound the table and yell.”

        That pretty much sums up the standard behavior of a few people on this blog. Sorry that one of them has chosen to be personally and gratuitously insulting to you. My recommendation is to ignore them, and keep up the good work you are doing.

  10. Ranger47 says

    As a lawyer, I’d expect you’d read more carefully Carly. I thank God none of the women in my life are “lifetime” politicians. Being a politician is fine. In fact, it once was a respected profession of high calling by people of strong principles. They were for the most part, people of faith, integrity, commitment, practicality and common sense who viewed political office as a term of service, but not a lifetime vocation.

    Once you make it a career, the lust for power to take the earnings of one person to give to another of your liking becomes insatiable, corruption takes over and rot sets in. But you know that, it’s in part why made the choice to make it a career.

  11. And still no apology…just wow.

  12. Ranger47 says

    Please kissa, read my post. I said I’m sorry for Pete’s sake. And it’s a heartfelt apology offered to make Carly feel better. As Carly and I agree, we appreciate and respect the service cart girls (oops, drivers) provide.

  13. You are a piece of work.

  14. I ‘m not worried who drives the drink cart, I’m worried who’s driving the IRRRB crony, good ole boys/girls club cart. One thing I think most rational folks can an agree on is good business people make good business deals, that is why they are successful. Who are the business leaders with a proven track record of success on the IRRRB board? I know it’s off topic but this is an economic summit, so shouldn’t folks who understand business and simple supply/demand vs operating costs be involved?

  15. Ranger47 says

    You’re not off topic at all Ken, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Let’s see how many business leaders get invited…

  16. John Ramos says

    Ken, it’s understandable to say that good business leaders make good business decisions. I’m sure that’s often true. But I have found that frequently, when business leaders are charged with disbursing public funds, they make poor decisions. Often there is as much back-scratching and cronyism going on with them as with politicians. I think it’s a human problem as much as a political one.

    With that said, I do hope business leaders are invited. I think Al Hodnik qualifies, and he’s the one who called for the summit.

    • John, unfortunately you are correct when it comes to public funds everybody loses their mind and do dumb things you would never consider with your own money. In the private sector you get fired or go broke doing bad business deals, in Government it is the allocating of money that is important (shows voters you care) not the results. Even with that being the case, I would trust a savvy businessman vs a career politician any day with millions of dollars to spend on bringing jobs up here.

  17. An interesting Wikipedia article on the history of steelmaking in Duluth:
    I doubt many of the more ideological statements but history does tend to repeat itself….

  18. Come on guys. This blog always has a community feel to it. This is different than other sites. We are all aware of that. Let’s not do that witch hunt thing. Ranger says things all the time. That’s what he does. Consider the archetypes. We need him. Personally, I don’t think he meant it as a statement about women.

    All of us that comment have our usual themes. Dave Gray always has a rational and academic/intellectual point to his statements. We need one guy that just blurts out emotional reactions. That’s his role here.

  19. Ranger states he learns from women daily. However, apparently not much…

  20. Ranger47 says

    OK Jackie, I’m a slow learner. I’m sure Carly started out a wonderful person but choosing to become a career politician was a terrible decision. And with it being “gifted” to her, she learned nothing about truly having to run for office. But it was her choice, and the reason we should be concerned is she’s in a position to take so much from so many good people and cause immeasurable hurt to their families and the community. Enough of her though…

    Back on topic….Just last Wednesday, I was having coffee and a bowl of soup with a longtime friend at Brewed Awakenings in Grand Rapids (great coffee shop if you haven’t tried it). In walks Tom Saxhaug so my friend buys him a cup of coffee. He declined to join us as he was waiting for someone. Turns out Mark Phillips, IRRRB head shows up to have coffee with Tom. (They might have just toured the new Magnetation plant, #4, north of Bovey/Coleraine). We weren’t eves dropping but pompous politicians and bureaucrats have a difficult time speaking softly, so they were easily heard by many in the café.

    Do you think they were talking about how to increase my lot in life, your lot in life, our neighbors? Or how to increase the overall size of the economic pie? Of course not. They were talking about how to take more hard earned money from one group of people only to spend it on pet projects of their liking. And now these same guys are going to hold a “Summit”, with our money!, to discuss business growth? What a joke…if it weren’t so sad.

    Pure evil these lifetime politicians are…not all, but most. Maybe Carly will be the exception but I doubt it. She’s being mentored by the worst of the worst…

    • Ranger, taking from one group and giving to another is politics in 2015. So sad. Liberals feel that through forced taxation and politicians coming up with a new program they are being charitable to the least of our society. They are just adding to the disfunction in our current system of cronyism and favoritism. Find a family that needs help and help them however YOU can, that is charity

  21. Carly is exactly the kind of person we need in politics…smart, young and female . A pox on all the patriarchal old white men.

    • David Gray says

      Patriarchy is how wise societies structure themselves. As Churchill aptly observed young people are prone to foolishness that their elders would see through. My one time observing Ms. Melin in action on the floor was an outburst of tears rather than an outburst of reason. Perhaps it was the exception to the rule and I was unlucky in my observation. However what I saw on the floor left me with the distinct impression that Mr. Melin was not really prepared to properly participate in governing this state.

  22. Jackie, How about effective or doesn’t that matter if you smart, young and female. That is the problem with our political system too many folks don’t care about results they just care about feeling good when they punch their ballet. I would vote for anybody young, old, male female, white, brown, black or pink that changed our polluted current system.
    Jackie, if I didn’t know better I would say you old-whiteaphobic, that must be a protected class in this screwed up world. I’m getting a lawyer ASAP.

    • Gerald S says

      In the 2013-2014 biennium, Melin was an assistant majority leader and was very effective, lead author not just on the marijuana but also on the Women’s Economic Security Act, and playing a role in several other important bills. This was the legislature, of course, that propelled Minnesota to the number one position as the best state for business, led Minnesota through a cycle of growth that has buried most of our Midwest neighbors, balanced the budget and created a reserve for the first time in years, restored funding for schools and local aid, froze tuition at the post-secondary level, cut property taxes for most Minnesotans, and did that all with tax cuts for all but the top 5%, who had to pay two cents more on the dollar.

      I would say that makes her pretty effective, even if she did not implement the personal agenda of a few of the people who comment here. Certainly she was much more effective than the current House majority, which promised big things for Greater Minnesota but ended up saying “never mind.”

      • Is she effective in bringing jobs up to the Range. If so please show the evidence. That is what this thread is about, a business summit . My only concern is does she help or hurt the biggest problem we have here on the Range, lack of well paying jobs. She is part of the DFL party that has ruled the Range with an iron fist for 50 yrs and would like to know how she plans on using every tool available to help us. I hear the liberals complaining steady about lack of diversity here on the Range, what is she and other DFL legislators doing about it. This includes using the 10’s of millions we waste from the IRRRB.

      • Ranger47 says

        Nice try Gerald. CNBC – “Our study ranks the states based on the criteria they use to sell themselves”. Therefore, CNBC’s ratings only tell us what the states (in this case DEED & Dayton, Melin wasn’t even in the room) think of themselves. They don’t tell us what businesses think of the state. The fact that more businesses are leaving Minnesota than are moving to Minnesota is the best indicator of what businesses think.

        • Gerald S says

          R47, you have the correct quote, but misunderstood the meaning. What CNBC is saying is that there are a set of criteria that all states use to sell themselves in business, and that by CNBC’s measurement — they discuss at length how they did the measurement, using the same criteria for all states — Minnesota is number one.

          They do specifically comment that this was the first time that a high tax state was ranked number one, although the previous top rankings for Virginia are a bit funny in that regard, since Virginia benefits mightily from federal taxation as the seat of a great deal of government activity and living quarters for government employees.

          They point out that Minnesota’s very high ratings for education, quality of work force, and infrastructure are enough to offset the taxes. Best we pay attention to those things, right?

          And Ken, actually there was job growth on the Range during the period up to 2015 when Melin was in the legislature, although it was slower than large parts of the rest of the state. Melin and other politicians have no role in and can do nothing about the world collapse of iron and steel this last year, although she was part of the Range/GOP coalition that created some financial relief for the mines and dialed back on environmental regulations.

          I would add to the main topic the point that Duluth might be a useful model for the Range in seeking economic growth. Duluth was actually deeper in the hole than the Range for much of the last 50 years and located in much the same geographic spot, but managed to pull itself out during the last 15 years, despite domination by the demonic DFL. The major difference seems to be that Duluthians did not try to recreate the heavy industry of the past, but forged a new economy based on light industry and service industries, while the Range continues to cling to the dream that somehow mining will come back, and concentrate disproportionately on the idea of trying to do workarounds to stimulate mining despite evidence that the international corporations that run it have no real interest in the Range beyond dragging as much money out of state and out of country as they can, and that we already know how this story ends.

          This is not to say that Duluth is not still behind some other state cities, and does not have ongoing problems with infrastructure and housing stock. It just is doing a lot better, and growing much faster.

          • Ranger47 says

            As we agree Gerald, the outcome of the CNBC report is manipulated by the very people it’s reporting on. It’s like me auditing myself. Therefore, Minnesota’s nation leading personal income tax, Minnesota’s nation leading corporate tax and Minnesota’s nation leading sales tax are all left out of the scoring.

            Here we all thought Brian Williams was gone. Nope, they just moved him to report on CNBC’s America’s Top States For Business.

            Here’s an unbiased 2015 report on Minnesota’s business climate:

            “Minnesota remained stagnant in eight out of nine categories listed in a Manufacturing and Logistics Report, produced by Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER). All 50 states were graded in topics ranging from human capital to global reach.

            The report, prepared for manufacturing policy group Conexus Indiana, measures the health of the manufacturing and logistics industries, the state of human capital, the cost of worker benefits, diversification of the industries, state-level productivity and innovation, expected fiscal liability, the state tax climate and global reach”.

            The 2015 grades Minnesota received are:
            • Manufacturing: B-
            • Logistics: B+
            • Human Capital: A
            • Worker Benefit Costs: B
            • Tax Climate: F
            • Expected Liability Gap: C+
            • Global Reach: C
            • Sector Diversification: C
            • Productivity and Innovation: B

          • Gerald S says

            R47, did you even read the article? Or my comment? Taxes and regulation were evaluated as specific categories. The study measured 60 hard number scores based on data, not opinion. MN ranked poorly (35th) on the section including taxes, but overcame that with very high scores in other areas. The study was done entirely by CNBC, and was not “manipulated” by those that were being reported on. If that statement were at all true, there would have been a 50 way tie for first, unless you believe that the governments of states like Wisconsin and Texas are so incompetent they couldn’t rig the study.

            Let me emphasize again, this is an empirically based study, not an opinion poll or self report. The results are not particularly surprising, since they are in the same range — top five or so — as similar studies by other business media, including Forbes and Business Week.

            The Manufacturing Policy Group is a trade and lobbying organization, and is in business to promote its agenda, which includes trying to reduce taxes and regulations. That is like asking the unions to rate states. It might be interesting to see, but doesn’t mean much objectively.

            If you really want to know what you are talking about, here is a link to the discussion of the methodology use by CNBC: http://www.cnbc.com/id/102701598

            If you don’t want to know, don’t bother.

          • Gerald, no one blames Melin for the collapse of the ore market. My beef is, I have heard the Range needs diversification and the DFL party is committed to that, vote for us to see the change- I’ve heard that same BS for the past 25 yrs. the DFL has controlled the Range for 50 yrs what have they done with the 10’s of millions of IRRRB dollars to change things. What has Melin done? As my father used to say “I don’t want excuses I want results” . Where are the results and at what point are Rangers going to say enough with the talk, throw the bums out!!

          • Are you saying Duluth is a success story? I have many old friends that ran businesses in Duluth on the docks that have sold or folded shop due to the over regulations the past 25 yrs. They will argue that a job at Subway is rated a job, just as a crane operator on the docks is rated a job for propaganda sake, one small difference one makes 15,000 one makes 78,000. It is the quality of the jobs along with the quantity that makes for a healthy middle class. Yes, those evil DFL ‘ers were in control when the regulations were passed. Same thing with logging business.

          • Gerald S says

            Yes Ken, Duluth is enjoying success right now. Median income has risen sharply, there is good retention and inflow of young people, there is extensive neighborhood revitalization, extensive new building, opening of new businesses and jobs added at old ones, and the city is gaining a reputation as a place people want to move to, rather than flee. And there are finally jobs that extend beyond asking “would you like fries with that?” being added by Cirrus and many other companies.

            Of course there are business failures; there always have been. And failing businessmen always seem to have an excuse for why they fail — always someone else’s fault. That’s why anecdotes mean so little and statistics are so important in analyzing economic issues, since one noisy failure grousing at the bar can drown out ten successes who can’t talk because they are working overtime. If there is business to be done, someone is doing it, and it is probably not the guy whining about the politicians.

            And if you have any specific real ideas about what the IRRRB should be doing, please bring them up instead of just grousing about the DFL. God knows the Range could use the help.

  23. John Ramos says

    Melin is big supporter of medical marijuana, which could be a step towards something that would make both liberals and business people happy, and might even help to revitalize the Range: Full legalization of weed. All the Iron Range grow sites that are hidden today could come out into the open, make a legitimate profit, and pay taxes. Tourists could visit and REALLY enjoy the natural beauty of the area. There would be no downside to this scenario.

  24. Not to change the subject (ha!) but here are some ideas for the proposed economic summit:

    1. It should be held over a week’s time, from a Monday through a Saturday, giving more people the chance to attend. There should also be “evening” sessions during that week. It should be held in various places (Virginia, Hibbing, Grand Rapids) over that week, with at least two different times at each location.

    2. Each day or session should be run in a similar format, so people can attend any day.

    3. All elected leaders (state level) should of course attend all days. All other local elected leaders (mayors, city councilors, school board members) should attend as much as possible. All large industries and employers should send representation to all sessions.

    4. Any and every person from the Iron Range or who has an interest in the area should be invited and very actively recruited to attend. Local businesses should be encouraged to send not only their owner, but also at least one employee. The IRRRB should have a reimbursement stipend for small business owners who allow employees to attend, so the employee can be paid for the day.

    5. People from all levels of education providers should be invited to attend (pre-K to college and university level).

    6. There should be good, onsite daycare available. Also, provide some food to everyone and make all participants feel equally valued (ie: not just the “important people” get fed).

    7. A very, very skilled facilitator or facilitating group needs to carefully plan out each day’s activities so everyone has a chance to give input and ideas, not just sit there.

    8. A previous post actually had a good idea about structuring different “specialties” in the summit – business costs and issues, transportation and utilities, workforce, education, community activities, and I’ll add, health and housing issues. I’m sure there are others.

    It would be pretty neat if this could include everyone, not just the usual players. We’d get a lot more ideas and ways to make things better.

    • Amy — Thank you for bringing some focus to this conversation. You’ve laid down a very good approach for this summit. I’ll be in a position to share some of this with someone inside the conversation soon. I think the most important thing about this is that it be open and representative of all people who live here, not just the typical power brokers and activists. People need to believe that this is different and that something will happen as a result of this event. Thanks!

  25. John Ramos says

    One big project that needs doing, on a national level, is the full-scale digitization of newspaper archives. Maybe if the IRRRB invested in computers and training, they could offer that service to media companies nationwide. There might even be federal grant money available for such a project, seeing as how it would have a great public benefit: Historical research has jumped miles ahead in the last 20 years, thanks to easily accessible digital archives. But there are still giant gaps in the record. Hard-typing Iron Rangers could fill those gaps.

  26. Gerald, some stats on Duluth % of household incomes less than 15K, Duluth-17.81% US average-12.61%. Recent job growth,Duluth-0.39 US avg -1.18. Also Duluth is 10K less than national household income average. Statistics being so important and all

  27. Gerald S says

    Ken, the “recent” numbers you cite are a couple of years old — that report is from early 2014 and cites data from the 2009 through 2013, which include the depths of the great recession when there were periods of negative change. More recent data is much better. For example, city job growth for the years 2011 through 2014 is 9.8%. This is continuing to improve in 2015, and in the most recent reporting period Duluth actually led MN in job creation.

    Duluth, of course, is facing potential vulnerability in the near future due to the cyclic collapse of the iron industry, which utilizes Duluth for many intermediate services, especially shipping but including things like engineering and geology services, and due to falling employment on the Range, which potentially affects Duluth service industries as well. So far this year Duluth has fought through those threats, but there could be future downward pressure.

    If your point is that Duluth is still behind many other places, that is true, and Duluth remains behind the Twin Cities, Rochester, and St. Cloud. But the current status represents starting from much farther behind and is a huge improvement from the past. When you start with a median household income of $34000 ten years ago and move to $43000, and a median family income in the low 50’s and move to the mid 60’s, you are actually making progress, and progress is what we are trying to achieve on the Range, rather than expecting equity with Santa Clara, CA.

    Progress in Duluth is especially striking in comparison with Superior, which “benefits” from Walker’s “reforms” and is just across the bridge. Superior’s performance in general shows most measures to be about 50% of Duluth’s performance over the same period. And of course the Duluth economy is on fire in comparison with the Range.

  28. Gerald hard to get numbers for 2015 because well, it is only halve way through 2015. Those were the most recent statistics I could get. The reason I harp on the DFL and lame efforts by the IRRRB while working with them is simple, nobody changes unless they 1st admit that what they are doing is NOT working. Once you admit to yourself what you are doing isn’t working you may change. I just don’t see that up here.
    Having a criteria set up the projects and businesses have to meet is a start. Eliminating non job creating pet projects for local legislators to bring to their district another change. Changing the IRRRB board to add local businessmen to have input. There are many things we could do to change but 1st we have to agree it is NOT working. Something DFLers up here won’t do, Twin City DFLers certainly don’t think it is working and want to get their hands on the taconite tax money themselves.

    • Gerald S says

      Which segues back to the original topic, the convening of a summit to address issues on the Range and to solicit comments and ideas from diverse constituencies in looking at the problems facing the Range. I think that is a good idea, but will only accomplish anything if ideas and opinions come from a variety of people, including people like you who have a different perspective than the majorities in the area. Honest appraisal of the past is critical for moving forward and avoiding repeating mistakes.

      On the Duluth data, the more recent stats for 2011 through 2014, as well as the 2009 through 2013 results you cite, come from a Google search. The figures on 2015 to date are from reports of data collected by the state of Minnesota and reported in the Duluth News Tribune — broad brush financial data like employment, tax collections, and job creation are collected and released monthly. On a technical note for people looking for information: one thing about Google is that its search algorithms, though secret, are known to be based at least partly on the number of citations of articles in other articles. For that reason, in social science and science the top articles on any search tend to be a little older, since there has been more time for other articles to reference them. In this case, your data was the top item, with more recent data three or four articles deeper on the list. As I say, this is an artifact of the search algorithm, which is fully automated. Google specifically is opposed to human editing, feeling that it adds potential of bias.

  29. Interesting back and forth…much needed to move any area or ideas forward. If there is a summit, the towns that are on the fringe of the Range need to be included. I know that the “bigger” Range cities don’t often think of the small and tiny towns as being part of the whole, but the people who live or work in the smaller towns DO TRAVEL to the Range for much of their shopping and other business needs. [Though small town people need to remember that ignoring their own stores and businesses can easily mean that they disappear.] Several of the small communities have more than Rangers might think they have, including medical facilities. I also want to point out that many of the owners/managers of small businesses are women, so ignore their experience at your peril.

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