A Mainstreet Radio special broadcast from City Hall in Nashwauk. Program highlights the history, current state, and future of mining in the Iron Range. MPR’s Catherine Winter and Martin Kaste present various reports and interviews from residents, miners, mining companies, and politicians. Following reports, a panel discussion with Jim Gustafson, commissioner of IRRRB; Frederic “Fritz” Knaak, former I-R state representative in White Bear Lake; and Tom Rukavina, DFL state representative from Virginia, who talk about the future of area. The panel also answers audience and listener questions.
Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.
Saint Catherine winter here with Martin Koski and this is a special Main Street radio broadcast. Minnesota public radio's Main Street radio is supported by a major Grant from the grand rapids-based blandin Foundation working in partnership with rural Minnesota groups to strengthen communities. We're coming to you live today from City Hall in nashwauk. We're sitting in a beautiful Hall with elegant would work this whole building has hardwood floors and fancy antique fixtures. It was built at the soldiers Memorial in 1926 when nashwauk was a mining boom town and was flushed with cash Mesabi Range the range runs about 90 miles. It's a series of town said on the edges of huge open mind open pit mines mountains of rock dog from the pits around the towns at one time, Minnesota provided almost two-thirds of the iron or consumed in this country iron mining brought people from Finland Italy the Balkans in other parts of Europe all looking for well paid jobs in the industry's good years, they found some of the highest industrial wages.Country but today the number of people employed by mining has dropped to just over 5,000 in the past decade several or processing plants have closed throwing thousands of people out of work many people inside and outside the mining industry predict that more plants will close and that if the mining industry survives at all, it will never provide for the range as it once did in the next half-hour we'll look at efforts to keep the Iron Range alive. We'll talk about whether the state should pay to bail out ailing taconite plants and why the rain seems to have an unusual amount of political clout will hear from politicians Union officials and steel workers and later in the program will take your questions over the telephone and from our audience here in nashwauk.We chose nashwauk for today's broadcast for a number of reasons in many ways. It's a typical mining town at the end of The Main Street. You can stand on a platform and look down on an enormous pit mine stretching out to the Horizon Shear red walls drop dizzyingly hundreds of feet to Frozen water a sign tells you that this mine was the first in Itasca County and that workers dug 25 million tons of ore from the ground here between 1902 and 1962 mining Drew thousands of residents and dozens of businesses to nashwauk in the early part of this Century, but now this mine and others in the area are abandoned Nash walks Mining Company Butler taconite shut down in 1986 young people have been moving away businesses have closed buildings have been torn down nashwauk has become a retirement community.Well, there's a lot of changes of mind. In an apartment above the barber shop on Main Street, Mary and Milton England look through books of nashwauk History prepared for Town anniversaries. He was the one that started the first Bakery the first show house right over there. Merry England has lived in this building for 77 years all her life Milton England called Swede by his friends worked in the mines here for forty years. They remember when the town had a hotel and several groceries and clothing stores and the streets were full of people of different nationalities. Everybody carried a gun and nothing was really like it is no no, If something didn't go right to know in all these saloons and they got into a fight or somebody had a grudge they shot him and that was it after we come home from a party or that one 2 in the morning to read little restaurant was full down there. Everybody had the steak sandwich and BBQ barbecued ribs. Lake nashwauk at one time. We had to theater's a couple of several bars and a half dozen churches. But in the past 20 years more than 200 buildings have been torn down a few historical buildings remain but there's not much money to maintain them the old city hall building was once a showpiece, but the city office has moved across the street in the 1970s to the soldiers memorial building and it took a while for anyone to notice that the old building had sprung a leak city clerk Ed ball stands on the ruined hardwood floor under a gaping hole in the ceiling in what used to be an elegant Ballroom. for the Youth I'll look at the chandeliers. It would be nice if this would be fixed and use for a history of site or something else who's going to weinerville for the Heat this building anymore. Is there now paying for things that were once provided by mining companies mining companies plowed streets and fixed street lights tax money from the mines build beautiful schools with swimming pools. The nashwauk-keewatin high school has had a pool since the 1920s. It's library has a large glittering Mosaic that depicts a bustling town and a working mine on a recent weekday Senior High student student line for hamburgers and french fries ninth-grader Shadow Neil says, he'd like to live on the Range when he graduates, but he expects. He'll have to leave my brother's been looking for a job for a long time. The only job you can get as McDonald's or something. That's all I can find young people started moving away from nashwauk after Butler taconite closed. The plants closure came as a shock. Two people who had expected the mines would employ them all their lives other closings followed including most recently National steel pellet in Keewatin. Just after National closed 55 year old Joker snarge fat with friends at the Huddle Cafe in Nashua Chris Norris work for National for 36 years has no spell gelato gelato, even the schools in the district will probably have to leave like it when I did Butler some Butler's went though. Our schools are going to go. I mean, we got a lot of people that are going to lose jobs. I need the grocery store here. I can't go and buy groceries the way I used to. We can't it cost too much to go somewhere else too. And we wouldn't get anything for our houses like other range cities nashwauk is working to try to bring in jobs. Meribah fragnito says the city has brought in a bank and a few other small businesses or a proposed motel in the housing unit. There were looking at for the spring in the car wash near fragnito says nashwauk has a good future but it's future is as a retirement community already well over half the residents are retired fragnito and other residents say the quality of life in nashwauk draws them back the low crime rate the nearby fishing the friendly people and many residents believe that someday mining will make a comeback and range towns will bloom again. Boom and bust cycles of shaking the region for decades and people who live on the Range have long been uneasy about the Region's dependence on mining conventional wisdom teaches that the only way to cushion the inevitable shock is to build up businesses unrelated to mining Martin. Cosby has a look at diversification efforts. At Giants Ridge ski resort near biwabik, the regulars have noticed a definite change in the clientele more and more of the skiers come from outside. The Iron Range, at least that's the assessment of two skiers from Virginia. A lot of people are from out of the area. There wasn't that many local people skiing here anymore. It's basically out of the area. I'm from Canada the city's don't you think so but not that many local people anymore the comedians on Twin City and skiing at Giants Ridge could be a sign that the Resort's ten-year-old campaign to broaden its customer base is succeeding Giants Ridge is publicly owned and has long been dependent on cash infusions from taconite tax funds, but director Mike genteel says the operation is beginning to break even genteel says the next step is to turn Giants Ridge into a year-round tourist spot in our Master planning in our long-range planning all of the Arrow so to speak pointed to to golf as an alternative for a summertime operation Golf Course will attract hundreds of retirement to the area. He thinks there's a chance that as many as 250 housing units could be built after the golf course is completed in 1995. And that's the real purpose behind Giants Ridge. She says attracting new money from outside the range former Duluth Mayor John phaedo now heads up to Hibbing Economic Development Authority and he says iron Rangers need to understand that diversification is the key to their future that occurs in terms of a mindset the quicker. We as a community will be able to achieve that diversification and I think it's a realistic in all proposed and something that's achievable. But again, it's it's a it's a case of trying to figure out what are our strong suits and then using those assets. That's where you try to build an expert vacation the Minnesota Department of Jobs and training recently predicted a 6% increase in the number of jobs in northeastern Minnesota in the. From 1989 through 1996. That's only two points lower than the relatively healthy 8% predicted for the Twin Cities. But Economist Rick caligiuri points out that the northeastern Minnesota figures have been boosted by growth in the Duluth area. And he says the Iron Range proper probably won't do as well as a number seem to indicate caligiuri says the numbers also don't reflect the fact that the new jobs on the Range are in service Industries and retailing jobs that don't provide the same kind of high wages and good benefits traditionally available in the mines Tom Woodward director of jobs and training in the Virginia Hibbing area says when a young adult enters the Iron Range job market usually has a hard time finding a living wage. What would happen is that this person by their wood would take one or let's say a little over minimum pay Job, and probably the spouse would enter the Labor Field at the same time. Or this person may have to put together several part-time jobs and possibly work more than the 40 hour week and with or without the spouse entering the labor feel there have been some success stories in the effort to Foster new manufacturing Industries on the Iron Range at the Hibbing Electronics plant employees wearing anti static electricity smocks manufacturer computer circuit boards and other electronic equipment for customers such as IBM and Zeidman's of Germany company vice-president Charlie crab shows off one of the latest products. This is a full system that we're manufacturing here book computer system that you hook into and we manufacturing all of the boards that go into it. And then we we buy some cable assemblies from other Minnesota manufacturers we go on we buy some power supplies are coming to Minnesota and we simply put it together Hibbing Electronics has grown into a 40 million-dollar your business since to Hibbing native started it in the garage 20 years ago Charlie Crepes as the local Workforce is what's kept the company from moving away. We are successful. One of the reasons we are very successful is because of our Workforce. I think it's a very highly educated Workforce. We do not hear of the we do not have the same problems here that I have heard in other parts of the country where companies are out there teaching basic mathematics and and and teaching people how to speak and how to read And we don't have any Minnesota. We have a very intelligent Workforce from that standpoint. But the Iron Range Workforce with its tradition of strong labor organizations can also be a complicating Factor when businesses consider locating in the area in the mid-1980s a controversy over unionization played a part in disrupting entrepreneur Gino paulucci plan to build a carpet Factory in Hibbing. Paulucci says he's now thinking of opening frozen pasta Factory in the same area, but he says the attitudes of organized labor still give him cause for concern the one disadvantage they have is the mentality that we all know you talked to anybody about the Iron Range weather there you are in st. Paul or Kokomo or New York and they said it wasn't that strike City isn't it? You know because all you hear about is labor stoppages and that's something that I think it's been may be magnified more than reality. But reality to a great degree. Is there Union activist Bob Ruth says the reputation for strikes is overblown. And he says Iron Range workers have no interest in keeping businesses out when they're organized. Whoever whatever the bargain whatever Union they organized with will try to get the highest contract. They can based on what that employer can pay and that that that runs the gamut of a what type of contract you can come you don't you never ask for more of a you may ask for you never settle out of contract that's more than the employer can pay at the area Department of Jobs and training. Tom Woodward says Iron Range workers understand that there is no longer any guarantee of finding High wages. I don't think that they'd like to take a lower-paying job, but they're they're realistic and they are concerned about their families and they will put several of these types of jobs together until something better comes along outside observers off and argue that it's not realistic. For the Iron Range to expect to build up major new Industries outside of mining Hibbing administrator John feder admits. There is a possibility that economic diversification is doomed to fail but he says that possibility is irrelevant in his opinion, which is increasingly shared by most business and government leaders in the area. The Iron Range has no choice but to try to cushion itself for the next great shock from the iron mines. This is Martin caste Minnesota public radio radio broadcast live from nashwauk. I'm Catherine winter here with Martin. Kosti joining us now at nashwauk City Hall are three people here to discuss the future of the Iron Range Fritz kanak is a former independent Republican state representative from White Bear Lake Tom. Rukavina is a dfl lawmaker from Virginia just a few miles up the road and Jim Gustafson is commissioner of the Iron Range resources and Rehabilitation board or I Triple R B. Thanks to all of you for being here. If there are members of the audience who have questions they like to put to our panelists. I'd encourage you to seek out Main Street radio reporter Rachel reabe who's standing at the back of the room with a microphone. So if you'd like to just raise your hands or walk over and find Rachel if you'd like to put a question to our panelists later on in the program will also hear from representatives of the steelworkers union and the state iron mining association with archer Barbie commissioner Jim Gustafson. The IEEE RB is an agency that collects special taxes from taconite. Producers and spends the money on projects such as City sewers, mine Land Rehabilitation and economic diversification projects on the Range commissioner Gustafson. What sorts of projects is the IEEE RB currently a funding? Walmart in the the agency is most famous. I think for the infrastructure projects that you make reference to and that is the substitution of a Hydra Barbie money in some cases for local taxpayer money for sewer projects and other projects within the community. Actually that's only a relatively small part of the money that they're part of the money that is spent by the atrapar be the balance of the money is spent in tourism project Economic Development projects, Milan dreka Reclamation projects Reclamation for example has planted over 2 million trees in the area. We have a division which raises old buildings and since 1970 has a virtual knock down a mill. Building a day 5 days a week since that time currently the focus is on the mining and minerals industry. There was a time where there was a sense of antagonism between the mining minerals industry and the IEEE RV the industry of felt that the production tax money that went to the agency was foolishly squandered and that they were overtaxed and the many of the people in the agency's felt that mining companies were not treating the employees fairly and there was a a sense of antagonism between the two. I think we change that a lot. There is now a closer relationship between the mining minerals industry and the I Triple R V by one of the programs that we have in place is a two-million-dollar grant program to improve the efficiency of any tax. Can I plant that? Would meet certain criteria and that is that if taconite company is willing to develop a 8 million dollar project and make a commitment to a long-range are a long ways commitment to the iron range and then Vesta $8000000 and modernize their plant. They can receive a two-million-dollar brand from the extra far be putting in golf courses at Giants Ridge and that sort of thing. Well, it depends on how you define that sort of thing direct Economic Development, which we we consider the golf course at Giants Ridge economic development director economic development is probably about 40% of our budget. The remaining 60% is a combination of infrastructure projects diversification of Industry mine Reclamation service project. I need the money to fund these projects comes directly from a tax on the mining industry. Is that correct? For simple mathematics that the mining companies pay $2 a ton of production tax in the last several years have been producing at the rate about 40 million tons. So 2 million times does 80 million dollars of that 80 million dollars about 1/3 goes to the eye triple RV in the remaining goes to the cities Towns County and Fork tax relief. I wanted to ask him from a representative cannot I know that there's been some discussion about that that tax money going directly into range towns and into the I Triple R B. Is there a feeling do you think among lawmakers from other parts of the state that money ought to be going into the state's general fund and be shared generally by the the rest of the state. Among the politicians. So in other parts of the state one that this fund even exists because of for a long long time. I think it was so something that wasn't openly debated and discussed it and legislative fall for no other reason that it just wasn't that mean that was not the Habit in the legislature and now they're more aware of it. It is a Statewide resource and I think people have watched focus it as to what the overall history of that van was, which was in a Statewide debate about whether we were going to be allocating this resource for this purpose locally for economic development. And in that particular case, I think the argument was made that it was needed for local developments and that argument one but the other side still hasn't entirely gone away and I think you're seeing more and more that mineral resources generally are being seen again as a Statewide resource how you do that? Are you go about doing that without doing serious damage to the efforts are going on up here is another matter. But yeah, I think you start your starting to hear that. Twice it hasn't arrived at a point in legislature or I'd say it's likely to Prevail but I think you're going to hear more. Did you want to respond to that represent? You want to respond to that Catherine just to let the listeners across the state know the area. There is no State money. I Triple R B. It is a local property tax in a sense. The production tax is paid in lieu of property taxes prior to the attack. And I meant that we in a natural or as we used to pay an ad valorem tax and work just like much like a property tax stuff. Rick's knows this commissioner gospel song also knows this all the Republicans who always harp about the IEEE RB. They also know this and I just want to get that message out of the fact of the matter is that also if we want to talk about the are minerals being a Statewide resource they are but over the last century the citizens of the Iron Range. Yeah through mineral rights that are paid to the state that state ownership right down the road here is an example the University of Minnesota has mineral rights probably worth the 200 million dollars that they're on their eyes right now about a hundred and ninety million. I believe hundred ninety million dollars in the permanent University fund and approximately seven hundred million dollars in the state school trust fund that goes to all the citizens of this state that adds up to almost to a billion dollars that was put in there by the citizens of the Iron Range. We do not get the benefits of the taxes that are property taxes that are paid with an IDS building or a General Mills building in the Twin Cities area that goes to a local to local taxes school districts the cities, and just as our production tax does here we have a few callers would like to jump in on this debate. Go ahead, please. Hi, my name is Jessica and I am from Nashua. But right now I'm in pain, Minnesota. I go to college and university and I remember when I went to HighSchool after the number of students that did finally leave cuz their parents just didn't have any more jobs left, you know at Butler plant and I don't think that it's accurate to say that the iron Rangers in a sock and others are just complain that they're closing down. We also want to bring a new jobs and industries in the area were not close to that idea. What what do I panelist think are the rumors of the death of the Iron Range exaggerated? Well, I'd let me jump in and say yes, I'm smiling and Aggie Pride say something say something else, but I think you know there was a lot of Doom and Gloom being talked about rural Minnesota and only thing in Minnesota, we've got basically the three Minnesota's we've got to Metro out State at least and a lot of rural Minnesota was written off lot of rural communities that people thought which shouldn't be existing after 1990 are out there in one way or another thriving and I think what you're seeing on the rain certainly is a downsize in one industry in one industry region, but I think anybody that writes off this part of the state is not only being premature not at all being realistic. I think that there's a lot going on here, but you're certainly going to see in this has been a process. This is not no, I mean this is been going on and it's been causing earthquakes and aftershocks in in in overall Statewide politics in Minnesota really since the 1950s. Call difficult process as it has Andrew Minnesota the change in the world economy other parts of the state what will happen and what will emerge will be different but it will be something and it will be here. What do you think of me? When I got there soon as someone who's working on projects to try to keep the range alive it obviously it's been through boom-and-bust Cycles. Is this just another bus then it'll come back or or is it in a in a slow Slide? The simple answer is know that the Iron Range is not going to dry up and disappear as some counties and regions in southern western Minnesota have the minerals industry basically is relatively strong. We had to taconite plants that were not very competitive in the World Market one has closed. Although we think there's a possibility that it may reopen under somewhat different configuration the other a plant to Eveleth mines, which is also known as a high cost to produce her I think is a struggling hard to be competitive and I think there's a good They'll stay open the remaining iron mining companies are very strong. The our body is at least it has a hundred years and that are plants are very competitive. And as far as tourism, we're seeing a terrific growth growth in tourism and back to the golf course at Giants Ridge right near the property that is being developed that there's already been over 2 million dollars a private investment not a nickel from the itrip RB or any public money that has been developed in high price condominiums in those are continuing to grow on FB Belton. Mike Gentile said earlier. There's a high probability that over our 10-year Horizon will probably have 250 to 300 Condominiums and Residences developed along there. And finally we are moving ahead of us diversification with some back office Industries and a telemarketing company. Electronic companies and so on. So the question is not as the Iron Range going to die. But what will it look like 10 years from now and it will look somewhat different but it certainly will still be here and employing lots of people represented rukavina is downsizing the future of the Iron Range. I think there are those that will agree with me and those that disagree that you know, we're producing approximately 40 million tons. And if not National does that close up permanently and there are a lot of people that say that the the other Tack and a company's on the Range will pick up but quite a bit of that tonnage so that we will continue to produce that 40 million times. But you know, we've died many deaths and been written off before and we've always come back and we're working hard with ARA mining industry, but you know why the goals of the eye triple RV in one of its directives and state statute is to diversify and I can say to the previous caller the young lady who Has moved away from the range at we are working very hard. To try to diversify that economy so that we don't export our children to other parts of the state, but I do want to comment and I just would like to say that I can only imagine what Senator kanak and Center Gustafson would have said if Rudy perfect proposal for million-dollar golf course, I had Giants Ridge or the money that the Northwest Airlines The Proposal it would have been a hue-and-cry from all over the state and certainly from Center cannot I haven't heard about it. I'm not shocked that they go before we get into Northwest Airlines. Let's go to another caller. Go ahead, please what's your question around the area money which would Finance two or three maybe four small businesses which are hard-pressed to get any kind of financing and I think the money is being spent in that it creates no jobs, and please no property tax wetransfer, please. What do you think of that criticism that I Triple R B money goes to beautifying towns that are already there and that that money ought to be spent instead on developing business has cancer and I'd say this that there is probably a two dozen different kinds of programs at the I Triple R B has I think if you examine each one of them there is a rational and intellectual justification for it, but I'm not sure if there's one program of the 20 that doesn't draw criticism from somebody from some Source. It's true that there is Main Street Redevelopment program that's available to the small businesses along the Iron Range not too different from the same program that's available in blues and other cities where the IEEE RB does give a grant to the city of the city give low-cost loans to the merchants to Merchants refurbished storefronts pay it back to the city and then that's recycled through the community. I think the net result is that as you drive around the Iron Range contrary to many other parts of rural Minnesota and roll United States that the town's look pretty good are cleaned up not many vacant buildings and basically considering the the downsizing of the towns in the migration that the small towns the Iron Range looks pretty darn good and I think that's important in terms of attracting both residences and businesses. So perhaps you don't see any immediate, you know business spring out, but by keeping the town's good-looking that that helps to promote the economy of the range in the long run. I think so and in terms of Why do the IEEE RB it's probably less than 1% of program like that cities. Can you see what's it? What's going on up there as I was driving up for example to the colors, right? I drove right by the brand spanking new gorgeous on my dad Clinton Town Hall and and the new fire hall and and I was wondering some of the same questions and you know, these are the kinds of answers at the range is going to have to deal with it is interested in diversifying if you know this I always complained about the incredibly High commercial property taxes in Twin City metropolitan area, which were comfortable in the square footage bases with Manhattan and we were trying to to attract business from other parts of the country hear the Iron Range commercial property taxes are even higher than they are down in the city and how you expect to be attracting a business development and and bringing jobs into the Iron Range when you aren't taking a direct attack on those kinds of commercial lot. Happy tax rates is really it's my way of thinking of a key question. How are you going to form? If you're really you know, you're not near markets here. If you're looking at expanding the job. They see if you're looking at actually building buildings to house businesses do employ people. How are you going to how are you going to compete after you've got an educated Workforce? That's good. But if where you're going to put them is as more expensive because of the commercial property taxes and other places. The reality is you're not going to be able to attract the jobs up here and I so I think the collars point is is very well taken and that that's an ongoing chronic problem that the ranger is facing right now is phasing out of its Reliance on my knee if I could jump into because the caller brought up the program billions and billions of dollars of wealth to East End a lot of people like the Rockefellers than that made their fortunes off the Iron Range as I said, there is no a Property tax anymore paid for by the mining companies I have been in the Twin Cities the sir Frets I have been around at where we had the mini session and one of the northern suburbs, I can't remember if it was Roseville their their City Hall folks and Iron Range listeners has a swimming pool in a waterslide in the city hall. So I think the citizens of the Iron Range certainly deserve to have some infrastructure up here that will help us out to attract businesses and not the Showcase as it is some kind of dining area like Appalachia. That's what the caller was talking about in terms of attracting business up here for really interested in in diversification. And in those kinds of things addressing things like that is as fundamental as high Commercial Property Tax Rate rates Hassett has to occur in and what what I'm concerned about in terms of what your ear of your responses as it's kind of a way. Pressure range problem of the US versus them mentality that seems to come out of it. I mean, I agree. I mean, I understand a tremendous amount of wealth was taken out of this region and went largely out east to build Fortunes in in and what not. What does that have to do right now with changing the the commercial property tax rate structure in the Iron Range are there hasn't been a call that I'm aware of yet that is talking about changing the commercial industrial all on the line. If we do if we first let me let me remind our listeners that you're listening to a special Main Street radio broadcast live from nashwauk city hall and then let's find out what our next caller has to say. Go ahead please in Britain. I want to thank representative rukavina for saying what he just said. I for one would be very willing to share our Resorts with the rest of the state give it all to the state of Minnesota. If we could back if we can get back we have already given in return when I drive to the suburbs down the Twin Cities and I know exactly what you're talking about, Shoreview Woodbury in Eden Prairie Bloomington. I see incredibly beautiful public schools and public buildings. I believe we should also get some of those same resources. I'd love to have ours updated the way that the rest of the state has the earth and the representative kanak. There is an us-versus-them, but perhaps you were treated equally with the rest of the state of Minnesota there wouldn't be such an us-versus-them and then finally just once liked comment on when you're talking with the future of the Iron Range. I know you're talking mostly about the economic future but we do have another future quite quite a bit of Futures up here in terms of our culture and families and family values in the way that we live our lives up here. I'm just a little disappointed that you left out over half the population and couldn't find a woman to participate in your panel or in some of the pizza thing of yours that I heard and I'll get off the phone and listen to the Comets. Thanks. We had hoped to try to have the panel more balanced than that and I wish that we had done that but we are glad to have the panelists that we do have and I and I would like to get your response to the especially especially representative rukavina to this idea that there is a special culture here on the Range worth preserving. What makes them. Different from the rest of the state. I don't know if we're different the you know, when our children leave we hurt that just as bad as someone other parts of a real Minnesota and was there a young people I guess the fact perhaps that we are a conglomerate the 40 some different ethnic groups that were brought here and thrown together to be in a way at that time in the early nineteen-hundreds indentured servants for you know, the industrialist Audi San Dino fritzl have fun with that statement. But you know, we stood up for ourselves as early as the 1907. We had a major strike that shut down the Iron Range where the people are stood up and and the demanded to have at least a little bit of that piece of the pie that was being made. We we learn to tolerate each other as I can. Remember some of the stories told to me is I did oral histories across the road. chaldea the fens learn to play bocce ball from the Italians and some of the locations and you know I mean we and the Italians and the ball cat people from the Serb croat slovenes learn to take sona's from the fence so I mean it is a rather unique culture but I think the underlined fact is that we have never been afraid to stand up for ourselves and demand our fair share a piece of the pie speaking standing up for yourselves our audience would also like to participate in this discussion Minnesota Public Radio zet Main Street reporter Rachel reabe has taken a microphone out to talk to one of the people listening here today have John ball with me Martin he says he is a relative newcomer he's been here since 1942 in nashwauk John you told me when you started with the mines and 42 the prognosis that they gave you was not good What did Italian 42? 2 years ago 742 they told him there were three years left with mining. Now. You worked how long for the Mind John? You told me that you had seven children. But you have five kids that remain here. Nashwauk has become largely a retirement community. Tell me what your five children have found to do for a living in this community. well What's the mark the national? Anna Hey there been working. Now it just waiting to see who it. What's going to happen? When a daughter is a school teacher. and now a lot of things when is a teacher's aide? John what kind of advice do you give him when? Veyron some of them are just waiting to see what happened to their cycles that you have seen living in nashwauk for 50 years. What kind of advice do you give these kids about the future here? You don't know what what the felon. I've seen through my life. Did you tell him one thing and something else happened? sometimes people in The rest of the state thankful. They can't get a job here. Just getting the car move go someplace else where you can find a job. Is it just not that easy? No, it's pretty hard to do that too. Yeah. Don't know. I don't know where to go and go to the cities and then you get them cheap jobs. you got to have tutoring jobs make living And that the rent is so high. I can't afford it. So there are no good options for them. If they were to listen to you John if they would listen to your advice. What would you tell? you know what I could. I've not really done The temperature in here is Japan. I wanted this country and to them what happens with national. but I can say so you feel helpless. close next thing to helpless. That's John. 50 years. Okay. Thank you Rachel. We have another caller on the line with a question 2 for our panelists. Go ahead, please. What's your question? We did have a caller. Is there still when they're high? Do you have a question for our panel or common? Apparently our callers having some trouble hearing is can you hear me? Okay, what's a diversified industry? That's the only way you're going to support those other work Industries. And if you do not have big Supervalu Marcus drugstore and Retail Store entertainment us some kind to the park. Spain Park so they don't have to move out. Brainerd is a good example to take it over after do you think really a bringing diverse businesses into this region? Well, I mentioned earlier about tourism and that we do think that we can build a tourism Powerhouse in Northeast Minnesota over the next decade and longer and many of those jobs contrary to what are often. They're portrayed are not all minimum wage jobs being doc boys, but in fact many middle and high priced jobs that that you can support a family on but beyond that we recognize that we're at a disadvantage as to Freight and so we're looked at industries that are are not fraid intensive and we have been successful just in the last few years working with a biotechnology firms working with the telemarketing firm. So back-office firm. In fact this morning, I was visiting with a investment banker all the Twin Cities on a out of plastic recycling operation in and that we talked a little bit about financing that might be available through the I travel RV in and end as we finish up I said, but let me give you side. Financing. Let me give you a little bit of a a commercial that date that the workforce in. The Iron Range is extremely productive that the youngsters are graduate from the high schools here have some of the best SAT scores and some of the highest work ethics that you can find anywhere in and one of the firm just down the road from my office at Fingerhut which has operations all over the country finds a they've had to almost 200 employees are going to add another hundred and have told me that there have the lowest turnover rate in the country and the Really the most productive one of the most productive office. The United States is located right here. And if so, if it is not afraid intensive, we think that we have a good shot at them. And of course the actual Barbie under the statutes exist today weather people in Mankato like it or not. The fact is that we do have an advantage to with the production tax money that we want to recycle in the jobs in and we would say that we're reasonably successful in that and I think that will be Announce a couple of major employer opportunities within the next six months politics. So we have one more piece. We'd like to present during this first hour dfl candidates for Governor in US Senate have been making pilgrimage to the Iron Range and the rest of Northeastern Minnesota for months now despite the declining population and the economically hardship on the Range many political observers still believe that a dfl candidate must win in this area in order to win a Statewide election iron Rangers played a major role in Minnesota politics throughout the past 15 years and the range continues to benefit from their political influence Mike Mulcahy reports. Governor Rudy perpich used to say that his father of Croatian immigrant-owned only one necktie. He wore it only when he went to church on Sunday and when he went to vote on Election Day this story illustrates a fundamental truth about politics on the Iron Range The Immigrant Mine Workers who populated the region saw voting as a sacred American right one not granted to them and their native countries voter turnout was always high in the state's 8th congressional district, which includes the range Duluth and the rest of Northeastern Minnesota and voters generally cast their ballots for the dfl party the same party allied with the unions that brought decent working conditions to the mines L. Zidane is managing editor of the Hibbing Daily Tribune noise for the dfl until when it came primary time the area drew a lot of attention because really how the range voted was was how the dfl primary would go so it didn't in that way it had. Probably influence Beyond. It's the actual number of Voters are people that lived here the dfl base on the Iron Range help keep Rudy perpich in office longer than any other Minnesota governor and the range may have reached the peak of its political power during the perfect years for many of those years Dwayne Benson from Lanesboro in Southeastern. Minnesota was the Republican leader in the state senate and it wasn't that long ago. We had to run diklic was touring education Finance. Their Johnson was touring taxes. And what's a 2/3 and 3/4 of our budget really was was massage through those two committees. So if they had a tremendous amount of influence and we had a governor who was in our governor, but as the range is political power reached its Zenith the economy of the area foundered the collapse of the US steel industry in 1979 meant the closing of Any mines the unemployment rate on the Range reached more than 20% in the early 80s young people moved away and the politicians looked for New Economic Development projects that would create jobs. Do you make your political speeches make your accusations your smart talks and your big words while there's people on the Iron Range that are going to hurt dfl state Senator Ron diklic of Hibbing arguing on the senate floor in 1987 that the state should lend the endotronix corporation 24 million dollars of taconite tax money to open a plant in Hibbing the plan fell through after the FBI started investigating and eventually the company's Founders were convicted of Securities fraud the endotronix debate was a warm-up of sorts for the debate over the Northwest Airlines bases still yet to be built in Hibbing in Duluth dick Legend perpich are out of office now and longtime state representative Joe begich of Eveleth retired in 1992 when redistricting cost the range is seat in the house, but the Iron Range still has a strong power base at the Capitol Doug Johnson still chairs the powerful send a tax committee new house Speaker herb Anderson comes from just north of the range in International Falls. One of his close allies is Tom rukavina from Virginia representative Dave Battaglia of Two Harbors chairs, the natural resources funding Committee in the house, but the experience and skill of the range politicians may not be enough to counter the changing demographics of Minnesota Republican, Dwayne. Benson says, even if Rudy perpich and or Doug Johnson run for governor this year, Minnesota may have seen its last Iron Range chief executive for a long time. That's not really what came out of the Metro is probably Arne Carlson before that the state generally elected Governors from Greater, Minnesota. And I think that that with the shift particular after the last census, I think it will be easier to elect a governor that has that base of the metro area Hibbing newspaper editor Al zidane agrees that the political influence of the Iron Range will continue to Wayne as the area's population decreases. He says that politics will always be an important part of life on the Range. And so that that maybe you would want to you know, because it's politics is the major Indoor Sport up here that the people just tend to get good at it. I might Mulcahy Minnesota Public Radio at the Capitol Coming up a little later in this program will talk about the environmental effects of iron Mining and we'll talk to spokesman for the u.s. Steel workers and the iron mining Association of Minnesota right now. Our current panelist are former state representative Fritz Clinic of White Bear Lake representative Tom. Rukavina, Virginia and I Triple R B commissioner Jim Gustafson, Henry Covina. You are the quintessential Iron Range politician as well. Why are iron Rangers such good politicians? Well, I am able to get a lot more credit than we should. I don't know. I'm you and you got a governor from the area and is a senator Benson said you have a share of the tax committee chair of the education finance committee chair of the Appropriations environmental love committee Appropriations Committee. We have a tendency to stay and stuff for quite a long time and seniority means alot to down at the Capitol. That's one of the reasons why we do have some clout also. I think the fact that our folks believed that government can be good. People the government isn't evil and that we participate that we turn out the 90% in a primary and probably 85% of that 90% votes dfl. So for all of those candidates that are running for governor United States Senate. Don't forget us because you know, who's going to control that that dfl primary even if we lost some population and they know that and that's why they're up here. I guess I think one of the reasons though that we've been very successful as we don't take our fights in the open out into the open we settle our differences amongst ourselves and believe me we have differences that time but we settle them and we do what's best for our constituents and you know, we we love the area we represent in the people that the that we represent and we're going to do the best job that we can for them down there. And so if we do get in arguments that with each other we set alarm amongst ourselves. Then we go out there and for those of us that might not agree we swallow hard and Yeah, we do. It's going to help our constituents. Do you think that the Heritage on the Range makes people more politically active more likely to vote will I think the fact gas worth at the you know, they came from an area where the space it that, you know, a lot of our lot of our rough people up here are on slovenes the crow lots that serves Italians the who were part of the austro-hungarian Empire offends at the time. I just gained independence from the Russian Empire. They didn't have a vote that they weren't treated. Well they were they lot of them weren't educated people but they were intelligent people and that when they came over here, they learn how to use the system they ran for office. I can and looking back in history. You have people that were immigrants that we're getting on elected on County boards and school boards and City council's and they were taken care of their people and we've continued to try to do that all along here. We have a caller on the line right now. Go ahead. Give a question or comment for a painless color. You bet. I am awesome at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. And I understand that one reason the market for taconite has shrunk recently is dead new technologies for making Iron and Steel simply can't use taconite pellets. They have to use other kinds of or and so I've heard the solution for Minnesota is new technology that allows to make to make iron in Minnesota using Minnesota or and I wonder if you can with his any sense is if and when those new technologies will arrive in, Minnesota. Right, we do plan to a little bit later in the program will expand on that issue the question of of new technologies and iron ore and we'll also have it a spokesman for the iron mining Association. And for the steelworkers up here. Both of them can probably expand on that too. But perhaps one of our current panelist would like to talk a little bit about technological changes in the industry Tim Gustafson that we have for our taconite pellets is a blast furnace and you'll get some argument about what what the life of the blast furnace is in our are in this country, but it's fair to say the 20 years from now at least under the current type of technology in the kind of telescope that we can look in the future that that most of it they blast furnaces probably will be closed down primarily because they are so expensive to build and or reline what that means. Is it the wonder if everything stays the same are taconite industry will probably disappear 2 rated. Over the next 20 years. However, the emerging technology are the electric Arc furnace is Which principle use scrap is their feet however as crappy as more and more expensive and also with the Tramp materials often associated with which scrap that they high quality direct reduced iron products needs to be introduced into those electric furnaces. And right now there are projects right on the table to start that type of Technology. When you start with the taconite conglomerate and instead of making tax my balls wind up with a higher quality Fork at about 92% iron, and we think that that holds great promise for the region and my guess is that within the next year. We'll see in and out front of least one direct reduced iron planned on the Iron Range. Catherines quickly the caller on brings up a good point and you know to remind listening audience was invented by a professor from the University of Minnesota. We ship that technology and never can tell royalty on it or patent so to speak and and in the end it has helped to create back my plants all over the world that we have to compete with but we discovered that here because the University of Minnesota knew the value of our are minerals and at one time did a lot of research they have kind of a band that played in the last legislative session and we were successful the range delegation in setting up an endowment that will cap at 25 million dollars and we will use the interest of Athena natural resources Research Institute at the University of minnesota-duluth that their Colerain facility to continue to work not only on improving our pallets, but also on other value-added Pro Text that will help you and range continue to survive would like to go to one more call or quickly before the top of the hour. Go ahead call her. Please block and Iron Range there a pretty tough bunch and it's too bad. There isn't more of them round because they really are a bunch of underdogs. And I know it's kind of hard to tell him to hang on and things are going to get better because they haven't seen things get better and so long it seems like it's never going to come but it's it's too bad that the people don't I mean when I say people I mean like the city people turn it around sort of speak has actually that's been our ace-in-the-hole for so many years and we've gone and forgot about it. It's just like a tourist trade Minnesota's, you know, it's just a tourist unbelievable amount of tourists come to state of Minnesota. And and I think that's a Ace in the Hole too. And I think that we should we should do something for them people up there. They've had a rough. for 4 years I really don't know what he really let me ask our panelists. I know I spoke yesterday with the office of trade and economic development in Minnesota and they told me that mining actually makes up only a very small percentage .44 tense of a percent of Minnesota is economy. How important is is this area to Minnesota as a whole pickle factories kind of stepped away a little bit about from the from the whole issue of the enormous historical influence. The Iron Range is Hannity FL politics in particular, but I think what's going on here is because of those numbers into percentages and and it it hasn't been a large tourism area and other reality of this date is it slowly but inevitably were were progressing towards a situation where the politics is more oriented towards a metropolitan area and a Suburban metropolitan area mean 20 years ago. No one talked about the Suburban metropolitan area. Now everybody's talking about it politically increasingly. I think what you're seeing is the people aren't Forget about the racer at the are starting to forget about the unique culture up here that you just kind of touch down a little bit that really is unique. I mean, I don't know where else you could go on the country where you saw these particular ethnic groups in case of an isolated situation like this to develop this kind of a culture and you're getting a whole generation of minnesotans, maybe a majority of them don't really have a feel for what the range is or or represents an increasingly when the rain comes to places like the legislature. It's not understood when it asks I wanted to ask for things and it expresses needs and more particularly the attitude which is kind of a cultural historical added to the range which is kind of an in-your-face sort of politics isn't appreciated for what it is and it's dead that people are kind of defensive about it. And I think there's going to have to be a real educational process. It's going to be going on with these decreasing numbers are it's it's going to get worse. It's not going to get better people are going to start I think ignoring the problems up here because There are plenty of other problems and things like crime in the cities, you know, in fact is it's not worried about up here is much larger because there's any crime relative terms up here, which is a benefit of those kinds of things that the people that are familiar with. The range of Tom. Tom knows that I go back with some family history. You're quite quite some generations sympathetic about but I wasn't watch important role for the range unless that unless that voice is hurt part Slovenian in that his grandfather's probably turn in his grave because he became Republican, but that's okay. The other color of you know, the color brings up in a very good point for all of her own Minnesota and it's probably a fairly simplistic attitude. But you know, unless the farmers create wealth from the soil in the Rangers great wealth from from turning rock into taconite pellets. And the forest industry makes trees in the paper of the Twin Cities metro area won't survive those folks down. There should realize that a healthy real Minnesota means they have healthy metro area as an example of the forest industry. Well, all the trees are all here in the 14 Forest the counties in northern Minnesota Northeastern North Central Minnesota. I believe it's something like 85% of the fourth related jobs such as a printing industry and in places like cabinet shops in that are located in the metro area. Saw the role we play in Oliver on Minnesota should never be forgotten and the metro area should certainly realize that a healthy real Minnesota means a healthy metro area. I was just very briefly for station identification radio coverage of Royal real issues are supported by the blandin foundation providing leadership training through the Blind and Community leadership program.