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The Memo: What to know in business this week for Feb. 18

The Number: 0

That's how many injuries Duluth's Verso paper mill recorded in all of 2018 among its 200-plus employees. For perspective, about 2.5 out out every 100 paper manufacturing workers in the U.S. had a recordable injury or illness in 2017, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And because now you're undoubtedly curious, the highest rate for any profession that year was... nursing and residential care facilities, where one in 10 workers recorded an injury or illness, followed closely by motor home manufacturing and skiing facilities.

The Word: "As far as stakeholders go — I think each of them will find something to like — and something to not like. At the end of the day I have to write a bill that I personally support — and one that I think best represents our community — not to mention something that I think I can get through the Senate!" state Sen. Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, wrote in an email to me explaining this year's bill to put the "public" in the public-private partnership proposed in Duluth's medical district. At stake is $164 million in state money and $20 million in local spending, plus tax incentives and the creation of an advisory board and dedicated funds for affordable housing. Yeah, it's going to be big.

The Lead: Big-box stores in St. Louis, Douglas and Carlton counties had their smallest December payrolls stretching back to 1990 with 3,126 employees over the holiday rush, according to state data — likely because there were fewer such stores with all the Sears and Kmart closures. Even recession-era staffing in this sector was a few hundred workers higher than it is now. And if you haven't already, read up on the ongoing dispute about how to assess big box stores' property values.

The Happy Hour: Duluth's own Blacklist Artisan Ales won a silver medal for its Classic Wit at the Best of Craft Beer awards in Bend, Ore., coming in behind a highly decorated New Mexico brewery in the Belgian-style witbier category. Other Minnesota brewhouses recognized in the competition: Third Street, Spilled Grain, Waconia and Indeed. Cheers.

The Call: Down with the southbound?

Do you use Groome Transportation or Jefferson Lines to travel between Duluth and the Twin Cities? Are you willing to talk about your experiences? Contact reporter John Lundy at 218-720-4103 or, and tell him he owes me one.

The Memo is a weekly roundup of things to know, ya know? Send business news of all kinds to and give owed reporter Brooks Johnson a call every now and then at 218-723-5329.

Brooks Johnson

Brooks is an investigative/enterprise reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune.

(218) 723-5329