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... This is not an indicator of a healthy employment situation for the iron range small towns and cities

Dear Editor;
Mining is not an issue of love and cares for the BWCA, we all love and care for the BWCA!
I will acknowledge with the anti-mining obstructionists and one speaker in particular at the Forest Service listening session at the DECC on March 16 who contend the economy in Ely and towns nearby is an economy built on the strength of the BWCA as an economic wealth builder.
After the speaker was done self-aggrandizing and bloviating about his business, he did elucidate the robustness of the Ely economy ,saying the city is growing and healthy and new businesses were coming in constantly. We know this must be true because we heard the same speech before.
After the last mine in Ely closed in the late 1960s and the logging industry was severely curtailed, we have had to rely on the BWCA to create living wages to raise a family , buy a home, buy a reliable car, pay for college for our children, to create medical, vacation, maternity leave and other benefits, provide money to the school trust fund, money for K though 12 education, money to the IRRRB to fund new businesses, and many other socio-economic benefits for the economically challenged folks.
The mining business does this and much more!
But this has apparently been a significant success listening to some of the people in the outdoor recreation business in attendance. This has to be the reason for the current condition of our economy and business climate.
It is also why we have hundreds of homes for sale, why there are only 25% of the children in the school and why schools are consolidated or closed and torn down since the creation of the BWCA. Why we have over 26 businesses currently for sale in the Ely area including restaurants, motels, service businesses, outdoor recreation businesses, retail sales, and our radio station. Look down the main streets of the Ely’s business district and see 23 closed businesses, 19 for sale or lease, and cities of Tower and Babbitt in very similar conditions.
This is the BWCA economy bragged about by the speaker.
Ever since the advent of the Wilderness tag to the BWCA in 1978 to what was supposed to be a multiple use National Park the population of Ely declined by 36% to the population of today and why there are so few school children is because not enough young parents can find living wage jobs.
According to a recent study paid for by the Friends of the Boundary Waters the BWCA supported employment is 817 full time equivalent jobs in the entire northeast economic zone combining summer part time and minimal full time direct jobs and by throwing in indirect and induced jobs from amusement and recreation, restaurants, motels, real estate, clothing, government, retail beverage, sight-seeing, transportation, and general retail stores.
This is never going to be enough employment to create a strong economic base with living wages to raise families.
Many of the BWCA economy indirect and induced jobs could never exist without mining jobs supporting these businesses in the first place. The summer outdoor recreation business is the boom and bust business that happens every year that the anti-mining zealots do not want to talk about.
The ones getting laid off each year get no benefits, no unemployment, no subsistence, and only receive minimum pay.
Northeast Minnesota is not enjoying the same economic renaissance as the rest of Minnesota and some of the large cities like Duluth. Because Duluth has a totally different set of circumstances, the unemployment rate is much less than the small towns in the rest of the northeast economic zone. The employment demographics for the northeast economic zone in the last 17 years demonstrate that mining dominates with a stable employment base with the best paying jobs that one can raise a family. The only employment sector enjoying a rise in employment are low paying service jobs.
The following data comes from the Minnesota Employment and Economic Development data base and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Per December, 2016, Duluth has nearly half of the St. Louis county population with an unemployment rate of only 3.7% and skews the rest of the county for an average of 5.6%. The next two largest cities of Hibbing at 6.6% and Virgina at 5.8% are near the St. Louis county average and much better than the rest of the small towns.
When factoring out Duluth the rest of the county is at 7.03% unemployment which is close to the other nearby counties of Koochiching at 8.9% and Itasca at 8.7%. Lake County at 5.4% and Cook at 5.7% have relatively small population bases. The unemployment rate for all the small towns combined in St. Louis by removing the 3 large cities is 7.31%.
Itasca county and Lake combined as side by side counties with St. Louis county have 12,565 unemployed people with an unemployment rate of 7.37% excluding only Duluth because it masks the real unemployment of the Iron Range. This is almost twice the unemployment rate as Minnesota state and Duluth.
This is not an indicator of a healthy employment situation for the iron range small towns and cities. Many of the BWCA direct jobs are poverty level jobs well below living wages with no health benefits.
The outlook for future BWCA usage is dismal at best which I will delineate later and all the more reason we can’t rely on the BWCA to save our iron range cities from starvation and decimation.
Join me and 11,000 others in this fight for our future and well-being! Join Fight for Mining Minnesota on Face Book. We all care for and love the BWCA but it will never be the wealth generator panacea touted. We support mining and clean water. We can have both.
Mike Banovetz
Fight for Mining Minnesota

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