Hundreds of Northlanders head to St. Paul for Duluth Days

By KBJR News 1

March 12, 2014 Updated Mar 12, 2014 at 9:03 PM CDT

St. Paul, Minn. (NNCNOW.com) -- This year is poised to be one of the busiest years in construction and development in Duluth's history.

Hundreds of Northlanders made their way to Saint Paul on Wednesday, to ensure this legislative session keeps Duluth in mind in a bonding bill that could be requesting as much as $750 million.

"We are a regional center for the state of Minnesota, so it's more important for Duluth than it is for most other cities to come here, and to fight to make our regional center better for everyone in Northeastern Minnesota" said Dan Hartman, interim director of Glensheen Mansion.

For Hartman, along with most of the dozens of Northlanders that made the trek, the name of this year's legislative game is business development and expansion for the city and the county.

Three major projects that residents are hoping will make the cut include renovations at the NorShore Theatre and Wade Stadium, and replacing the current water system at Spirit Mountain.

In all, the projects request about $15 million from the state.

"While that's a lot of money, in a potentially $750 million bill it's not, especially when we're the fourth largest city in the state of Minnesota," said Senator Rodger Reinert, (DFL) D-7.

Passing a bonding bill during a relatively shorter legislative session requires balance, both geography, as far as where the bonding dollars make it, and along party lines.

To strike that balance, 10 teams representing a cross section of city and county interests, set out Wednesday to thank state lawmakers and put their priorities in the forefront of their minds.

Team Five leader, Elissa Hansen, is Director of Business Development with APEX, which focuses on business attraction, expansion, and retention in the Arrowhead Region.

If the NorShore Theatre were renovated, Hansen says the arts culture it would attract and retain is a win for businesses as well.

"We need those types of investments in the NorShore where it's adding that community, adding that culture, and in Spirit Mountain where it's making it more financially feasible to continue to have that infrastructure," said Hansen.

Hansen's group took their message to Republican State Representative Dean Urdahl, of Hutchinson, who's also on the Bonding Committee.

Representative Urdahl says proving projects benefit an entire region of the state helps put a project in the forefront before the cuts begin.

"We have to consider a geographic balance for a bonding bill, and the requests from across the state. So, whether they're Democrat or Republican, rural or urban, we have to look at that," said Urdahl.

"A lot of the people who will use the NorShore will not be Duluthians," added Hartman. "It's going to be a regional thing for the people coming down from the Range, people coming up from the Cities to hear a great concert."

Other projects Duluth and Saint Louis County hope to tackle this year include a request for planning money to help design the future of the Lake Superior Zoo following the 2012 floods.

Also, $4 million of improvements to the Northeast Regional Corrections Center, and a near $1 million facilities improvement for the Saint Louis County Volunteer Rescue Squad.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.