Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It’s been quite the busy October! I’ve been able to spend time at a number of meetings and gatherings, and have interacted with many of you over the last few weeks. However, the highlight of my month was meeting my new grandson, Nico! He and his parents are doing well. The only problem is my son, daughter-in-law, and Nico live in the Pacific Northwest so I can’t see him as much as any grandma wants to see their grandchildren.
Early this month, I spoke at a NRRI Coleraine Lab media event as they showcased a new solid biofuel created from wood waste. This new product is organic matter, not a fossil fuel, but it could be burned in a coal-fired power plant. I am told this is the first step in what could lead to even more high-value, wood-based products. Promising.
The next day, I joined the Cass County Association of Townships annual conference in Hackensack. Our townships represent our most local level of government, and help to give me a better idea what our district thinks on a number of issues.
I also appreciated getting updated on the developments in Pine River and Backus at their joint Economic Development Council. We’re seeing some promising developments including the potential for Essentia Health to expand services with a new facility in Pine River.
On October 20th, I met Mississippi Headwaters Executive Director Tim Terill when he invited me to address his organization’s Biennial Conference in Walker. Cass and Itasca County have representation on this group that was established in law back in 1980 to identify and protect the natural, cultural, scenic, scientific, and recreational values of the Mississippi’s first 400 miles.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news this month. Early this week, we learned Blandin Paper Company would be shutting down the operation of the No. 5 paper machine, cutting 150 positions. There’s no easy way to put it, this is heartbreaking for so many families in our community. Blandin is such an incredible source for local jobs and goodwill. Understanding softening global markets for paper doesn’t make it easier to stomach a decision like this from the parent company.
At the state level, there are a number of resources that could help those facing a layoff. The dislocated worker program is reserved for situations like this. It makes extra resources available to help pay bills beyond normal UI, and also opens up a host of retraining or job search assistance. If you have questions about this program, please contact my office.
In the long-term, we’re looking at bringing more businesses and jobs to our state and our area. One way is through a new program we passed pertaining to job training grants. These help businesses pay full wages while an employee is still in the training process. It’s a way to help Minnesotans get a great paying job in a new industry that is expanding and growing for years to come.
Wild Rice Sulfate Standard
On Tuesday, I joined RAMS and other groups to make our voices heard regarding the new proposed wild rice sulfate standard. There is only one real treatment option for sulfate and that is reverse osmosis. These systems are costly to install and maintain and are extremely energy intensive. These costs – estimated to be billions of dollars - would be borne by local communities, residences, and businesses.
The fact is, there is no solid scientific proof these measures would have the sizable impact the MPCA is looking for. I was encouraged to see all the support for our area at the meeting, and will continue to fight for what’s right. We don’t need to be searching for problems and costly solutions that are not proven to be cost-effective or even beneficial.
If you’re interested, here’s a link to a story about the event from WDIO.
Real ID Update
Minnesota received another extension from the federal government to continue using our current ID cards for air travel until October 2018. We’re in the process of updating our IDs to the federal Real ID standard, and this extension is helpful in giving us more time to become compliant.
Deer Hunting Opener Coming Up
Grand Rapids is honored to host the Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener this year and I look forward to joining the fun at the opening banquet on November 2nd at the Timberlake Lodge. Congratulations to Visit Grand Rapids, Explore Minnesota, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources who are partnering in what looks to be a fun-filled 3-day celebration and hunt.
Please Contact Me
As always, please contact me if there’s anything I can do to help you or your family. If you have questions about the job resources listed above, I’d be happy to help.
Have a safe and Happy Halloween and watch out for the deer!