State lawmakers discuss economic expansion in the Northland

By KBJR News 1

January 21, 2014 Updated Jan 21, 2014 at 7:56 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- United States Senator Al Franken and U.S. Representative Rick Nolan discussed ways to improve the Northland business climate at a luncheon Tuesday afternoon.

The 113th Congress has been widely criticized as a do-nothing Congress, passing fewer bills than any in recent memory.

Rep. Rick Nolan says despite perceptions that congress is plagued by gridlock, the fact is, a great deal of federal money has been secured for a number of worthy projects in the district.

He says congress is making positive steps to move the region forward.

"We've gotten money for just about all of the airports, for many of the colleges... we got $10-million to help improve the harbor," said Rep. Nolan.

The elected officials say the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is also working on environmental remediation to the surrounding bodies of water to keep invasive species out and the lakes as clean as possible.

"The Great Lakes are 90% of the freshwater in our country, 40-million people rely on it for drinking water," said Sen. Franken.

He says job creation in the Northland is another priority.

Sen. Franken says between 1/3 and 1/2 of manufacturers in the state have jobs they can't fill because people do not have the right skill set.

"We need to train up people to get these high-skilled jobs, and I'm working on workforce development. That's very important," he said.

Rep. Nolan highlighted the regions three T's: taconite, tourism, and timber, saying that's where we need to place our emphasis economically.

"We've got to find ways to advance all of those businesses and all of those industries."

And in doing so, he says, there will be a lot to look forward to.

"I'm very, very excited about the future and the opportunity to create good business opportunities, to create good paying jobs," said Rep. Nolan.

Sen. Franken also wants woody-biomass to be considered fuel for renewable energy, as our region has a surplus of this type of resource.

Elsa Robins