Our view: A kick to the gut, then a silver liningThe announcement came like a kick to the gut Tuesday. Magnetation LLC said it would build its new, $350 million, 100- to 120-job iron ore pellet manufacturing plant in Reynolds, Ind.
The announcement came like a kick to the gut Tuesday. Magnetation LLC said it would build its new, $350 million, 100- to 120-job iron ore pellet manufacturing plant in Reynolds, Ind.
And not in Itasca County on either of two sites identified for the plant, sites suddenly and surprisingly ruled out this summer, first following concerns of company officials they couldn’t meet Minnesota’s environmental-review deadlines and then, after state lawmakers quickly passed a bill to streamline the review, amid decisions that land-lease restrictions on one site were insurmountable and that improving infrastructure at the other site was too costly.
And not in Superior, which remained in the running, head-to-head with Indiana, until the end.
“Just the overall picture with Reynolds: the timeline and infrastructure and logistics all played into the decision” to pick Indiana over Superior, Matt Lehtinen, the president of Magnetation Inc. and vice president of Magnetation LLC, said yesterday in an interview with the News Tribune Opinion page.
The Northland, with its pristine, undisturbed wilderness beauty, is far different from the long-industrialized Rust Belt of Indiana when it comes to a heavy manufacturing proposal; but Superior always was a “viable site for us,” Lehtinen said. “We certainly applaud all the efforts of Douglas County. … It could have been built there. But overall it just wasn’t as attractive from a business standpoint.” For one thing, Indiana is a lot closer to Ohio, he said, and the high-quality iron ore pellets that’ll be produced at the new plant will feed a steel mill in Ohio owned by AK Steel, which owns nearly half of Magnetation.
So we can lick our wounds and decry this project lost and the jobs that got away. And let’s definitely spend some time doing that: examining what happened, debriefing and adapting so we’re more prepared the next time opportunity presents itself.
But let’s not waste time with self-pity.
Just hours after Magnetation’s disappointing announcement, Air Canada was scheduled to land its first jet in Duluth for maintenance at a facility run by AAR Aircraft Services. The facility had been dormant six years. When fully operational, the facility is expected to employ as many as 225 workers.
Also Tuesday, Minnesota Public Radio broadcast and posted a story praising not only the AAR milestone but other achievements that are breeding optimism in Duluth and the region, including plans for a downtown office tower anchored by Maurice’s and its promise of 100 new jobs, the city’s success in erasing huge multi-year budget deficits, and our suddenly low 5.9 percent unemployment rate.
The story mentioned, too, the 141 jobs lost with the Georgia Pacific plant closing, prompting UMD economist Jim Skurla to point out: “Duluth has always had this tradition of taking two steps forward, then one step back.”
This time, AAR and the MPR story are the two steps forward with Magnetation our one step back. We can step forward more often by building on successes and on what works while learning, always, from what doesn’t.