Iron Range 4th of July returns with gusto in 2021

Today I present one of my favorite annual features at MinnesotaBrown: the annual Fourth of July weekend lineup of Iron Range regional parades, street dances and fireworks displays. I’ve only been posting my newspaper columns this year as I finish my book. But I just had to come out of my book-writing cave to put… Read More →

A primal howl from Wolf Island

I live in the woods. Sometime at night you can hear the wolves. I’ve heard many wolves over the years. And yet every time I hear a wolf howl I always look to the stars above the moonlit tree line, wondering if the sound is as close as it seems. My spine shutters. This same… Read More →

Every year is a Brown Christmas

I often tell people from outside Minnesota that the snow and cold don’t really become unpleasant until after Christmas. Everything before then is a crisp, cool puff of snowy magic.  But here along the Mesabi Iron Range we’ve received very little snow this month. As we approach Christmas Day we might have a brown Christmas…. Read More →

All politics is national

We now understand that 2016 was no fluke. Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range, a post-WWII bastion of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, now leans toward the Republican Party. And the DFL shows no sign of regaining lost ground anytime soon. The old days are truly gone. The numbers from Tuesday’s election weren’t overwhelming. President Trump won most… Read More →

Cleveland Cliffs resets the Mesabi Iron Range

Before March 2, 1901 northern Minnesota served as a battleground for two immutable titans of industry, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. At stake was control of the world’s richest untapped source of iron ore and the nation-building steel it could produce. The scene grew chaotic with new mines opening, closing, and changing hands all… Read More →

Cleveland Cliffs acquires ArcelorMittal USA

Cleveland Cliffs becomes North America’s largest producer of iron ore and flat-rolled steel after acquiring the assets of ArcelorMittal USA. Reuters reported over the weekend that ArcelorMittal and Cleveland Cliffs were negotiating an asset merger that would dramatically affect the taconite industry on Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range. The deal merges ArcelorMittal’s American operations with those… Read More →

PBS NewsHour digs into Iron Range political dynamic

Last week I talked about the increased attention paid to the Iron Range amid Minnesota’s newfound treatment as a swing state. This week, much more of the same.  Even as polls continue to show a consistent, significant lead for Joe Biden, media pontificators (and supporters of President Donald Trump) continue to argue a different narrative…. Read More →

IRRR commissioner OKs contested water tower project in Brookston

On Thursday afternoon Commissioner Mark Phillips of the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation announced the approval of a contested $250,000 grant for a water tower in Brookston. The decision concludes a growing controversy over the project’s exclusion from a collection of public works projects funded by the unique state agency. The small… Read More →

IRRR must adapt or be smashed to pieces

Amid a global pandemic and watershed moment in social justice it seems mundane to raise a parochial political concern like the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (nee IRRRB). Over the years the IRRRB has been involved in many important, boring, and sometimes questionable investments in public works and economic development under administrations… Read More →

The rise of post-commute opportunity in northern Minnesota

Around 1960 my grandfather Marv Johnson quit the Keewatin police force to work at the Erie taconite plant in Hoyt Lakes. He told me that his take-home salary doubled that day. It was the first time he felt confident he could provide for his growing family. There were downsides. For one, the job almost killed… Read More →