It's been a busy stretch as we close out the year. The Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) met for the final time this year last week at Eveleth. The nine-member board makes recommendations to the Commissioner of the IRRR Agency on a variety of grant and loan programs that are funded by the taconite production tax.
The board acted favorably on projects totaling $8.4 million be funded by the taconite economic development fund. When annual taconite production total exceeds 30 million tons, up to 25 cents per-ton of the taconite production tax may be rebated back to the mining companies. ArcelorMittal Minorca, Hibbing Taconite Company, Northshore Mining Company, United Taconite Mining Company, US Steel Keetac, & US Steel Minntac submitted projects. All projects required significant matching funds from the companies and must be directed at capital improvement or workforce development at existing facilities on the iron range.
We reviewed and recommended approval of small businesses loans for Airmark Inc., API Outsourcing Inc. and Zakobe LLC. These projects are funded out of the Douglas J. Johnson Economic Trust Fund. A total of 17 local community infrastructure projects also received a favorable recommendation. Of note for our area, the city of Deerwood received a $150,000 grant to assist in replacing the city water tower and upgrade aging city water lines. The total project cost is projected to be about $2.2 million with USDA Rural Development loan and grant providing a major portion of the project cost.
Wednesday and Thursday of last week were St. Paul days. On Thursday, the Legislative Permanent School Trust Commission met, of which I currently serve as chair. The commission received the annual revenue report from the MN DNR on timber harvested on school trust forestry lands.
This year school trust forestry lands produced $14.1 million in total revenue and after expenses a net of $3.77 million will be transferred to the School Trust Fund Corpus. The corpus currently stands at about $1.2 billion. The interest earned on the trust fund is distributed annually to Minnesota’s school districts on a per student basis. Mineral exploration and mining royalties are also collected on school trust lands and deposited in the school trust fund.
Minnesota’s mining and timber industries are major contributor to our region’s economy. We also share a significant portion of that natural resource based revenue with the public school children across all of Minnesota.