$7.8 M in Public Works Projects Approved by IRRRB

By KBJR News 1

December 13, 2012 Updated Dec 15, 2012 at 12:28 PM CDT

Eveleth, MN (NNC NOW) - "This is a little higher than what was budgeted, but it's because we have a lot of shovel–ready projects to get people to work in the construction center and beyond," said IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich, during the opening moments of Thursday's meeting.

36 shovel–ready projects in all, said Sertich, that will leverage $66 million in other investments. The grant will go for things like replacing sewers and sidewalks in Aurora, Babbit, and other Iron Range cities.

Other financial support will go to a loan for an expansion at Nelson Wood Shims and the hydro–blasting service company Aqua Power. These project alone are expected to create 17 new jobs.

But arguably mining businesses have the most to gain with the approval of $8.7 million from the Taconite Economic Development Fund going toward projects like a system upgrade at US Steel's Minntac site, a reactivation of a concentrator at the Northshore Mining Company, and a ball mill addition to Magnetation's Bovey plant.

Not only will these projects add jobs but also increase competition on the world market.

"Mining companies—thank you for employing our people and make sure you employ our people. We put a lot of money into training our local people, so I think it's only fair that they should have 1st crack at the jobs," said Board member and Dist 5A Rep. Tom Rukavina.

But the "sexiest" issue on the agenda was the approval of an $800,000 Film Production Incentive Program, which will encourage crews to film on the Iron Range and spend their money on location. Sertich believes it could bring in an extra $8 million...

"It doesn't mean that they're going to get the money. They only get money that rebates if they spend money in our service area," said Sertich.

...and encourage Northland traditions, as Rep. Dave Tomassoni points to the filming of the feature film "North Country", when Sissy Spacek learned the tricks of the strudel trade.

"There have been women up here who have been making strudel for 20 years who can't fold the dough without putting a hole in it. Sissy did it on the first try," said Tomassoni.

Essar Steel was also given a $7 M loan extension, with hopes that the company can double its $700 M dollar investment at the Nashwauk mining project, making it a larger capital investment project than the Viking's stadium.