Wife Linda and I extend our best wishes to you and yours as we celebrate Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for.
Last week I issued a new release calling for action in light of our region's latest economic setback as Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. announced idling its Northshore Mining operations in Silver Bay and Babbitt.
This puts around another 540 workers on the shelf. As I stated in the news release, we have to stop the bleeding. This layoff underscores the importance of bringing job-creating projects on line today in our region.
The governor has suggested a special session to extend unemployment for out-of-work miners, that is not enough. What we really need is fixing the cumbersome permitting process that is hindering economic development in our part of the state. But for the mountain of bureaucratic red tape that is preventing new projects from moving forward, our skilled workers would not be sitting on the sidelines.
We need to stop the dillydallying, the governor should instruct our state agencies to move forward on new non-taconite related mining operations and substantial pipeline construction projects that already exist right here in the district, that would put many of our region's people back to work today.
I was pleased to see that Consolidated Telecommunications Co. received a grant of nearly $760,000 to improve broadband access in our region. The total cost of the project is $1.6 million, with the balance covered by a 52-percent match from Consolidated and local agencies in the area.
This Border-to-Border Broadband Development grant is one of 15 – totaling $11 million – announced by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. A total of 44 groups applied for grants this year, adding up to more than $29 million in requests.
Consolidated's grant will bring better service to 272 households in the Fort Ripley area. I issued a letter of support for this project in early September, as well as support for a joint CTC/Long Lake Township project, which did not receive funding during the current cycle of broad band grant awards.
Major portions of Aitkin and Crow Wing County remain severely underserved. Projects like this one are examples of how the Legislature has leveraged local community support and private-sector funding to extend broadband service. Improving broadband access must include a variety of approaches. It's a critical investment that will help create a sustainable future for our citizens here in rural Minnesota.
Broadband access in rural Minnesota remains a challenge and I will continue to work on that.