Hoyt Lakes Mayor says Laskin Conversion Promising News for Business

By KBJR News 1

January 31, 2013 Updated Feb 1, 2013 at 12:26 AM CDT

Hoyt Lakes, MN (NNCNOW.com) - MN Power says an abundance of available natural gas has dropped its market price.

"We factored that in and ultimately identified the most cost–effective solution for Laskin, [which] was to convert it from coal to natural gas," said MN Power's manager for corporate communications Amy Rutledge.

Rutledge says it's good news for the company's customers because it should help keep heating and energy costs down.

But it's even better news for Hoyt Lakes, says resident Kevin Eckman, as many people who live in the town also work for the power plant.

"It's a small community to start off with, and anything to keep jobs around here is a bonus. I got quite a few friends of mine that work there," said Eckman.

Hoyt Lakes Mayor Mark Skelton says the alternative of closing the plant would've been nothing short of catastrophic for the town, and cites the closing of the LTV mine as an example of such an impact.

"You have to remember, our city was probably—30 years ago—4,000... residents. We're down to about 2,000 residents right now," said Skelton.

Along with that, Skelton says the conversion is more than a job retainer. With the steam and gas–powered opportunities the Laskin Energy Park will bring after the conversion, Skelton says he's hopeful other opportunities will arise for business expansion.

"We're hoping that... Polymet [is] coming in the near future; [we're] hoping for expansion at Mesabi Nugget. They're both good corporate neighbors also, and we're looking so forward to working with them," said Skelton.

...promising news for a community where the future of their biggest employer was, as of Tuesday, up in the air.

Not all jobs will be saved with the conversion, as it takes about one–third of the workforce to operate a natural gas plant.

Minnesota Power officials say they're confidant, however, that they'll be able to find new employment opportunities for impacted individuals.

- Posted to the Web by Billy Wagness