In tough times, IRRRB shouldn’t lose focus

These indeed are difficult times on the Iron Range.
The headlines from the last several months are hard to ignore and regional leaders are rightly worried that the latest downturn in the taconite mining industry is different, if not long-lasting.
That was the backdrop Friday at Fortune Bay when Mary Finnegan, a deputy commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, met with a handful of leaders from the Ely, Babbitt and Tower areas.
Billed as one of several “listening sessions” conducted by IRRRB staff around the region, the meeting was scheduled in part to gather input on “area priorities and business, community and workforce development needs.”
Without question, the IRRRB is a unique asset and one that has boosted and benefited Ely in many ways through the decades.


Keep a close eye on school enrollment numbers at 696

Here's just an excerpt from this week's Ely Echo Editorial...

The strength of our economy, no matter what naysayers proclaim, is based on how many tons of taconite ship from the Iron Range. These are the jobs that pay the best wages. The mines create numerous jobs in businesses that provide services to the mines as well.

All of those jobs are in peril at the moment and the state of Minnesota is not helping by bickering over whether to extend unemployed benefits.

Where this could hit home is in the enrollment numbers in the Ely school system. In this week’s Ely Echo we are reporting there could be a slight enrollment enrollment increase for the 2016-2017 school year. Normally we would be jumping up and down with this news. Now we know we should look at it with guarded optimism.


Klobuchar and Franken right to push for funding for LIHEAP

This winter has been easy on the heating bills with the mild weather we have had so far. That’s about to change and with a dip in the mining and tourism economy, some people up here are going to have some tough choices to make.
Figuring out how to pay a heating bill can put a family at risk in a hurry. There’s a federal program to help those in need and our federal senators have been pushing for Washington to continue to provide funding into the future.
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken urged the administration to take into account the high demand for heating assistance and restore funding to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to a level no less than $4.7 billion.
In a bipartisan letter to President Obama that was sent with 38 other senators, Klobuchar and Franken requested that LIHEAP funding be included in the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget proposal.


Here’s what we’d like to see happen in Ely in the year 2016

The clock struck midnight and a new year dawned Friday morning.
There’s little doubt that 2015 was a year of both ups-and-downs in the Ely area and across the Iron Range. The year ended with layoffs at regional mines, genuine concerns about the future of the local economy and even an unprecedented summit meeting that brought President Obama’s chief of staff to the Iron Range for a meeting with elected officials and some who have lost their jobs with the latest mining downturn.
But the turn of the calendar is symbolic of sorts, and a new year brings new hopes and even some optimism about the future.
We’re not into New Year’s resolutions. Instead we’ve come up with a wish list for 2016. Santa, if you’re reading, the Ely area and the whole Iron Range are in need of some gifts that last beyond Christmas.
Here’s a start for the new year:
• Permitting, construction at PolyMet


Merry Christmas from D.C.: Loggers finally catch a break

Local loggers and truckers will benefit from a provision passed in a transportation bill recently signed into law.
With the help of Rep. Rick Nolan, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, logging trucks will no longer have to drive city streets in Duluth instead of I-35.
For Ely logger Elroy Kuehl, driving a semi truck full of logs down London Road and Superior Street never made sense. These streets were made for cars, not logging trucks.
So Kuehl went from logger to advocate, starting with Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack who rode with Kuehl in a caravan through Duluth in 2012 to bring publicity to the issue. For some reason the late Rep. Jim Oberstar wasn’t interested.
Unfortunately Cravaack wasn’t in office long enough to make it happen in 2012. It took three more years of lobbying before a common sense solution was passed.


...chasing sustainable fuel unicorns

Dear Editor:
Everywhere I listen and look now, there are ads put out by the government telling parents to bring their kids to the woods. I think they finally figured out what I’ve known for about eight years now. Trouble is - it’s too little, too late.
During the “staycation” times of this administration’s tenure, we have lost an entire generation of kids interested in nothing but their electronic babysitters. Instead of improving the economy and then playing with climate change, they spent borrowed money on foolish things that they called “sustainable” which later collapsed into a pile of more debt for us all.


Future of steel industry in USA directly linked to survival of Range

When he spoke in Ely Dec. 3, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk gave the group an insider’s look at what ails the Iron Range and in turn Minnesota.
The future of the iron mining industry took center stage and Bakk pulled no punches. “There’s no way to save (the mining industry) unless they save it in Washington, D.C.,” said Bakk.
Whether this country moves forward with a steel industry is the real question at hand. There are a handful of states that are on the verge of trying to handle a knockout punch. Minnesota is at the front of the line.
Without a steel industry, it will be nearly impossible for the Iron Range to produce and sell taconite pellets in the future. Without a steel industry, our country will become dependent on other countries at a level never seen before in history.


The VFW reflects on the attack that tested America’s resolve

This National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the VFW reflects on the event that changed the course of history and altered America’s destiny.
The attack on Pearl Harbor 74 years ago left more than 3,500 men and women dead or wounded and tested America’s resolve like never before. But when the dust settled on one of America’s darkest days, a reinvigorated and tenacious nation awoke determined to defend our freedom and way of life no matter the cost.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke with prophetic words when he later remarked, “No matter how long it may take us to overcome … the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.”
The incredible odds we faced in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor served to bolster the indomitable spirit of our nation – carrying us through to the ultimate victory against the Axis powers, just as President Roosevelt had predicted.


Special session needed in St. Paul, major action needed in Washington

The news of Northshore Mining idling their operations in Babbitt and Silver Bay on Dec. 1 was a direct hit to the area’s economy. What’s needed now is a combined approach from state and federal elected officials to solve what could turn into a major downturn for the Ely area.
We support Gov. Dayton calling a special session to extend unemployment benefits for taconite mine employees. There are likely to be 1,000 families that will be directly affected, and once the benefits run out they will be forced to make some tough decisions.
The last thing our area needs is to see families pack up and leave. Our schools can’t take it, our businesses can’t take it and we can’t take it.
There’s some game playing going on with what is to be discussed in a special session. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Dayton have discussed including narrowing Minnesota’sracial disparities in the special session agenda.


Ely businesses ready for you to shop locally so check them out first

Why should we, our friends, our neighbors, and our fellow employees shop locally?
Good question!
Businesses in the Ely area have the products you need at competitive prices and you are supporting your community by shopping locally.
We’re very fortunate to have a wide variety of shops offering merchandise that ranges from your everyday needs to items you just can’t find anywhere else.
So if you’ve got your shopping list and you’ve checked it twice, be sure to take a look around here in town first.
If you’re shopping for the younger crowd, we’ve got stores that have unique games, toys and clothing that will fit any size and age.
Got someone on your list that needs good winter clothing and footwear? Ely has several stores that can provide you with the warmth you want your gift to carry with it.


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