Range housing woes hit home

My kids aren’t kids anymore. In just a few years they’ll move out on their own. I remember the excitement of that time of life, but as a parent I’m struck by the enormous financial burdens they’ll face. In 1999, our first apartment rent in Hibbing was a little over $300 a month. You can’t… Read More →

In da club, ya

Some might remember the night my friend and podcasting partner Karl Jacob and I co-hosted a Roaring ’20s 100th birthday party for the Hibbing High School auditorium last month. It was a lovely evening of storytelling, sketch comedy, jazz and old time music in one of the great cathedrals of Iron Range education. What you… Read More →

Canned squid and the damage done

The little yellow box on the clearance shelf caught my eye. Its vibrant art deco motif suggested the product might have been packaged anytime between 1929 and present day. But this was no antique shop. This was the Hibbing Walmart. A chorus of computerized beeps sang from the registers while this strange box marked “Vigo”… Read More →

1920s roar back to life

The 1920s earned the nickname, “the Roaring ‘20s,” from economic exuberance and social change.  Farm kids moved to town. Women started having fun in public. Social experiments like Prohibition became more complicated than originally planned. Despite all that, it was a politically conservative era, electing Harding, Coolidge and Hoover as presidents. The economy boomed for… Read More →

Billions ain’t what they used to be

These last two weeks brought bittersweet poetry to business news. Relatives gathered around the bedside of our grandfather, U.S. Steel, after financial doctors warned he may not have much longer. Even his own board of directors said it might be time to pull the plug. Or perhaps you prefer mythology. The god Promethe-USX brought the… Read More →

Cliffs offer to buy U.S. Steel portends shakeup in Iron Range mining

Today, I have a news analysis piece running in the Minnesota Reformer: “Cliffs offer to buy U.S. Steel holds huge implications for the Iron Range.” On Sunday, the two biggest iron ore and steelmaking companies on the Iron Range signaled discussions that could lead to a consequential sale. U.S. Steel announced it was fielding offers… Read More →

Rural housing prices rise with changing times

Memorial Day weekend approaches, a time when residents of northern Minnesota welcome the residents of southern Minnesota for the long weekend. Perhaps before you log off to enjoy the next few days you might read my latest for the Minnesota Reformer, “The northland has its own housing crisis.” Summer custom dictates that visitors from the… Read More →

The hard lessons behind those leases

The only proper response to a mistake is to learn from it. Last week, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommended that Cleveland Cliffs receive state mineral leases once held by Mesabi Metallics, a group loosely connected to the investors behind Essar Steel. The iron ore in question lies outside Nashwauk near the former site… Read More →

A season of rejuvenation and low expectations

Amazingly, I’ve managed to make it through most of March still believing it’s winter. This is a first for me. Usually I dupe myself into believing that spring will arrive early. Then, northern Minnesota’s most sadistic season again crushes my hopes. As the Buddhists say, desire is the root of all suffering. I’m learning. People… Read More →

Rich town, poor town

  A century ago, Iron Range communities like Hibbing, Virginia and Eveleth drew the ire of conservative business and political minds for their lavish spending on public works and education. Hibbing even boasted the nickname “the Richest Village on Earth” for its ability to levy enormous tax revenues off of the unfathomable wealth of nearby… Read More →