Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Merry Christmas and Happy Winter Solstice! It is the Season of Light and the daylight hours begin to extend once again. This is one of my favorite times of year with the excitement of celebrating our Savior’s birth with family and loved ones. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
As you know, Blandin Paper’s shutdown of paper machine 5 is tough economic news to close out the year. The resulting layoffs will be challenging for the families involved but it is reassuring to know that state agencies are onsite, working directly with the individuals involved as are local institutions like Itasca Economic Development Corporation, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and Itasca Community College.
Moreover, local leaders are directing renewed attention on economic strategies that will ensure a healthy economy going forward. Both public sector leaders, through the Itasca County Economic Adjustment Response Steering Committee (led by Itasca Economic Development Corporation), and private sector business owners in the Itasca Area are coming together to assess, recommend and implement business and industry diversification strategies. Though the layoff is upsetting news, I’m confident our area can do what we’ve always done; come together to help those in need and use this challenge as an opportunity to reassess our future direction as a community.
Now that we’re turning the page on 2017, we’re getting closer to starting up the 2018 legislative session in February. Part of this process is meeting with local organizations to find what they’d like to see this session.
In the past month, I have met with the Cass County Board as well as city officials from Deer River, Grand Rapids, and Pine River about their priorities for the 2018 legislative session and bonding projects they have submitted. I also had a comprehensive discussion with mental health providers in Itasca County about significant challenges in providing services for those with mental illness. Several ideas surfaced on legislative actions that could help close some gaps and save taxpayers money in the process.
I enjoyed the annual meeting/holiday potluck hosted by the Itasca County Township Association on December 11th. At the event, an informative program was presented by the Itasca County Attorney, Auditor, and Assessor regarding the background and outcome of the successful negotiations with Blandin Paper Company leading to an out-of-court resolution to the paper company’s tax challenge. I was gratified to have authored the tax legislation this year that enabled the agreement between all parties.
Earlier this month, I participated, at the invitation of the local “Clean Energy Team”, in a community meeting regarding plans to work with the Grand Rapids Public Utilities Commission to establish a community solar garden. This will definitely be a project going forward.
I also reconnected with the Entrepreneur Fund, where I formerly served as a board member, about their requirements to continue to serve area entrepreneurs and discussed potential legislation that would provide more flexibility in utilizing funding already available but not easily utilized.
The Legislative Permanent School Fund Commission held a strategic planning session this week where we developed priorities for maximizing the revenues coming from school trust fund lands. These lands are under-recognized for their contribution to our public schools across the state. Please take a minute to check out the Commission’s new website where you can click on your school district and see how much money is received from school trust fund lands. If you’re interested, here’s a link for more information.
Please Contact Me
As always, please contact me if you need anything; I’m here to help. And, again, Merry Christmas and my wishes for a prosperous and healthy New Year!