Brooks covers business and the economy for the Duluth News Tribune.
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Iron mined in northern Minnesota is turned into steel, which is turned into cars and appliances, which are turned into scrap, which is recycled into steel, which is turned into grinding balls, which are used to mine more iron. Keep that circle moving, and there is plenty of money to be made, as the Duluth grinding ball plant on Garfield Avenue has shown over the past 40 years. What started as a 1,500-ton-per-year operation employing 12 people now produces more than 100,000 tons annually and employs 50 people.
Regional unemployment was down again in April as the taconite reboot continued and the labor market shrank. In St. Louis, Carlton and Douglas counties last month, 5.2 percent of residents seeking jobs did not have one, according to the Department of Employment and Economic Development. That's an improvement on the 6.1 percent unemployment rate in April 2016. "It's a pretty tight labor market in the region for job vacancies compared to job seekers," said Cameron Macht with DEED. "If people are looking for jobs they're certainly available."
The Number: $337 That was the average weekly pay for hospitality employees in Duluth in 2016, according to data from DEED. While many make more, and some make less, that's an average of $17,500 a year for 6,700 workers. It's a wage below the poverty line if the worker has extra mouths to feed and not far above it otherwise. That ought to present a striking dissonance for anyone paying those summertime rates — $300 a night or more — that do not appear to trickle down to the hourly workers. Tips are appreciated.
ASHLAND — Normally the mere mention of the words "monetary policy" will put the average crowd to sleep, but the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis kept local residents engaged for an hour on Wednesday night — and they wanted more. Neel Kashkari took questions on the central banking system, explained how the Fed balances the "see-saw" of inflation and employment and offered his stance on financial regulations during a community forum at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center.
Think of a science fiction scene where jars of human brains line the walls. In a way, BRTI Life Sciences makes similar jars, but on a much, much smaller scale — and in a superior fashion, as company founder Dr. John Brekke says: "Our brains are better than the other guys' brains." Based in Two Harbors, BRTI is reaching new levels of success as the company markets its Cell-Mate 3D matrix technology to laboratories across the land.
The Number: 91 percent That's how much of the cost of installing solar panels a Minnesota homeowner can expect to recover from various incentives, according to a Consumer Energy Alliance study. Much of that comes from a federal rebate and net metering, which offsets electricity charges on your bill by the amount produced and fed into the grid from your rooftop. So typical systems can end up costing just $1,450 to $2,000 in the long term.
For the second time in its 33-year life, rubber-tracked vehicle maker ASV of Grand Rapids is a public company. An initial public offering earlier this month saw ASV raise $26.6 million as it was spun off from former parent companies Terex Corp. and Manitex International. After an initial offering of $7 per share, the company's stock hasn't yet traded above $8, but reached $7.71 at the end of last week.
The News Tribune is launching two new weekly newspapers to better tell the stories of Duluth's distinct neighborhoods. The Western Weekly and Eastern Observer will hit newsstands and subscriber mailboxes for the first time June 8 and every Thursday thereafter. "There are stories out there that aren't being told by any publication right now," said News Tribune publisher Neal Ronquist. "This is more targeted, more specific coverage of neighborhoods. It's really getting into almost street-by-street coverage."
The 32 taps are flowing at Crooked Pint Ale House as the new neighborhood restaurant and bar opened at Kenwood Village in Duluth this week. "We worked a long time to get to this point, so I'm really excited about it," said owner Russell Smith. The Twin Cities-based franchise anchors a corner of the new mixed-use development at Arrowhead Road and Kenwood Avenue, where businesses started opening and residents started moving in earlier this year.
Porter's Restaurant will close at the end of the month ahead of a $1 million overhaul and rebranding. The restaurant, connected to Holiday Inn & Suites and the Holiday Center in downtown Duluth, will shut down May 30. The reopening date and new name has not been announced yet.