Sending the wrong message is costly

There are two cases of economic development gone wrong in Ely. The first you likely are aware of, the second was disheartening to hear and unfortunately sad but true.
Steger Mukluks would like to expand in the Ely Business Park. But the company and the Ely city council have not been able to come to an agreement on the price of the lot.
One of the last remaining manufacturers in the area, Steger has carved out a successful niche in the outdoor footwear business. A month ago the company ran quarter-page ads looking for help. Sales are up and there’s not enough room at the inn.
So a local company goes back to the city council looking to acquire the land it thought it was on the road to purchasing. But instead of welcoming the opportunity to proceed with open arms, the council refuses to sell the land.
Hanging in the balance are jobs, additional tax revenues and the chance to have an expanding business retain its Ely presence.


Another delay for a safer 169

Last week MnDOT silently announced another delay in the reconstruction of Highway 169 in the Eagles Nest area. After this move, we’re wondering if we will ever see this project become reality.
We’ve gone 20 years so far with local leaders pushing for a safer highway. With their pleas falling on deaf ears, representatives from Ely went to Washington D.C. and found a sympathetic ear in then-Congressman Jim Oberstar.
He was able to procure $20 million for the project with hopes the project could see the light of day by the end of the decade. We’re now looking at the third decade coming to a close as this project MAY finally see the light of day.
What was supposed to be built in 2016 has now been pushed back to 2017. That means we’ve got another 1,000+ days of driving an unsafe highway in poor condition that is extremely susceptible to black ice during certain times of the year.


Progress in tough economic times

An Ely business owner looked out his front door, thought for a moment and said, “You must be having a tough time finding stories for your Progress Edition.”
You’ll find our yearly look at progress in this week’s Ely Echo. It’s far from our largest edition, in fact it might be one of the smallest. But we looked hard, knocked on doors, made phone calls and asked for businesses to let us know if they made improvements, added employees or changed ownership.
We put together 16 pages with stories and photos, not bad for a time when we could nearly write as many stories about businesses and jobs lost.
When you think about that, it makes those who are featured this year a bit more special.  It’s one thing to invest when times are good, it’s a lot tougher when times are tough.


Historic 1965 BWCAW Joseph Perko land exchange threatened

Dear Editor:
The concept of setting aside a large block of road less land in northeast Minnesota as public property for wilderness recreation dates back to the early 1900s when writers, scholars, and others first begin to discuss exploitation of natural resources and coined the word conservation as it applied to timber, game and other material uses of the land.
The campaign to accomplish the feat of setting aside an area we now know as the Quetico Superior canoe country was one that eventually reached every major level of government, the courts, individuals and organizations throughout the nation and presidents of the United States.


Oh spring, where for art thou?

Thursday, March 20 was the Vernal Equinox, the official first day of spring. Except in Ely, Minnesota. Here we’ve just about given up on spring.
Monday was the last day to get fish houses off of area lakes. Never mind that there’s still two or three or four feet of snow on area lakes.
From what we can tell, those fish house folks had their work cut out for them. Or they literally had to cut their fish houses up in order to get them out.
There was a fish house on Miners Lake this year that had a trailer mounted to the side of it. Pull it out on to the lake with a wheeler then tip the house on its side. Brilliant.
But when there were feet of snow to go through to get it off the lake, a new plan had to be thought up. So the ingenious fish house builder rigged up two heavy duty plastic sleds that held the wheels. The house was tipped and pulled off the lake with a snowmobile. More brilliance.


Silent majority responds to rumor

As close as they sat to each other, the two sides of the mining debate were still miles apart Tuesday night. The folding chairs at the Town of Morse annual meeting held a diverse group of Elyites, but neither side lit the fuse of debate over mining and Ely’s future.
Voter turnout in Morse was up 500 percent from last March when a supervisor seat was again the only choice to be made on the ballot.
Rumors had flown around town of a write-in campaign being launched at the last minute by a leader of the anti-mining crowd.
Instead of 30 voters filing in over the eight-hour polling period, additional ballots had to be made as the total nearly reached 150.
When the votes were counted, the rumor was dismissed and the sitting supervisor received 147 of the 148 votes cast. The only write-in vote went to a current supervisor who was not up for election.


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