Delta Air Lines gets $5.9M to add 107 jobs to Iron Range call centerThe Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board loan will be forgiven if employment levels stay high.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Delta Air Lines will get $5.9 million from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board to expand its Chisholm call center and won’t have to pay the money back if employment levels at the center remain high.
The IRRRB board today approved the deal that requires Delta to keep 525 employees at the facility, up from the current 418.
Delta officials said they hope to begin the expansion within weeks.
The 12-year “forgivable loan” starts to come due in five years, but the payments will be forgiven if employment stays above 450.
If employment drops below 450 for one year, Delta will have to repay half of the loan. If employment drops below 400, Delta would be required to repay the entire loan at 2.5 percent interest, and the IRRRB would have the option to foreclose on the building.
IRRRB staff and board members said the deal shows the wisdom of state officials who developed the state’s largest-ever economic incentives deal in 1994 for a private company, Twin Cities-based Northwest Airlines, which included the Chisholm call center. Delta absorbed Northwest in 2008 but has maintained and grown the call center that handles calls from Delta’s customers buying tickets or counting their frequent flyer miles.
“I’m really excited to have (Delta) recommitted to the Iron Range for the future,” IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich said.
Lawmakers who make up the board praised the center’s workers who have been heralded by Delta as the best in their international system.
“The quality of the Range worker is being showcased here,” state Rep. Dave Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, chairman of the IRRRB oversight board, said.
IRRRB officials noted that the money going to Delta is “local,” coming from a portion of the per-ton tax on taconite iron ore produced on the Iron Range. That tax is paid by companies instead of local property taxes, and the proceeds are intended to foster economic diversification across the Iron Range.
Board members noted that Delta customers can request the Chisholm center when they call Delta’s toll-free phone number, and state Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, suggested Northlanders do it.
“Sometimes that can be very helpful,” Metsa said, “for a Ranger to talk to another Ranger.”
The IRRRB, which met today in Eveleth, approved: