$11.2 million approved for business expansion on Iron Range

By KBJR News 1

November 7, 2013 Updated Nov 7, 2013 at 7:26 PM CDT

Iron Range, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Among the biggest projects approved during Thursday's Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board meeting: a near $6 million forgivable loan to Delta Air Lines for renovations and modernizing their Customer Engagement Center, in Chisholm.

According to the center's Director Michael Cooper, the money will go toward creating "new work stations for our employees, new lighting, some things we'll do on the environmental front to make it more energy efficient as well."

The "refreshing" of the call center's infrastructure, says Cooper, will help create over 100 jobs—both within the building itself, and some at home opportunities throughout the Iron Range—bringing Delta's total to 525 positions on the Range.

"Today really is about the work of the employees. They do a phenomenal job of taking care of our customers," said Cooper, standing with a group of smiling employees, "and this is an opportunity to recommit to Northeastern Minnesota, and the Range."

Also approved today: a $5 million loan to the Chisholm–Hibbing Airport Authority for the expansion of the automotive electronic company Detroit Diesel Remanufacturing on the Range Regional Airport site, which will create about 50 jobs.

The company has seen 12–fold growth in their business in the past 6 ½ years, more than doubling their employee base.

"It's the employee base in Hibbing and the dedication of all the workers that show up every day that allow us to continue to be successful," said DMR Plant Operations Manager David Rhode, "and be able to entice further business opportunities."

In just a few years time, the company hopes that their 60,000 square foot expansion can go even further.

"By 2017 [we hope to] expand that and be an additional 30,000 [sq. ft.]," said Rhode, outside of the IRRRB board room, "to total our square footage here to over 90,000 sq. ft."

State Senator and IRRRB Board member Dave Tomassoni says the Board is hopeful everything down to construction labor will come from hired people within the region.

"We would also like them to employ other people who are in the trades and... live here locally, and spend their money locally, and send their kids to our schools," said Sen. Tomassoni after the meeting.

The Board hopes these expansions will be a win–win for the Range, its businesses, and its residents.

Metal manufacturing Hibbing Fabricators also received approval for a $250,000 loan, which the company says will help increase production, and remain competitive.

Billy Wagness