IRRRB is expected to loan Delta Air Lines $5.9 million for call center

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board is expected to approve a $5.9 million loan to Delta Air Lines on Thursday to modernize the company's ticket sales call center in Chisholm.

Delta Air Lines
(Mark Garfinkel / Associated Press)

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board is expected to approve a $5.9 million loan to Delta Air Lines on Thursday to modernize the company's ticket sales call center in Chisholm.

The center, the last vestige of a massive state deal for Northwest Airlines nearly 20 years ago, is among the larger employers on the Iron Range, with 418 workers answering telephone calls from the flying public. Employees earn between $22,000 and $48,000 yearly.

Atlanta-based Delta, which absorbed Northwest in 2008, wants to refurbish the 40,000-square-foot facility to "transform the center into a modern, state-of-the-art customer engagement center."

"Delta Air Lines looks forward to signing a new agreement with the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board to continue the long-term partnership with our Customer Engagement Center in Chisholm," Allison Ausband, vice president-reservation sales and customer care, said in a statement, calling the Chisholm center "one of the highest-performing offices in the Delta Reservations system."

When it's completed, the company will add 107 positions under a requirement in the loan package, an IRRRB official said Tuesday.


The IRRRB was a major part of the 1994 deal, including a $9.7 million "forgivable loan" to Northwest, which had to repay $1 million. The state also built a maintenance base in Duluth that was abandoned by Northwest before aircraft maintenance contractor AAR reopened it in 2012.

The Delta project has been approved by IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich and the agency's technical advisory panel, and the board is expected to approve the deal Thursday.

Freshman state Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, an IRRRB board member, said the call center has been a shining star of job diversification for the mining-heavy Iron Range economy. "It's been a good business for Chisholm with good wages," Metsa told the News Tribune.

Detroit Diesel gets another $5 million

Detroit Diesel moved into its new Iron Range headquarters next to Hibbing's Range Regional Airport in August. Now, the company wants to double the size to 60,000 square feet.

The $1.63 million building sat empty for seven years after being built "on speculation" by the IRRRB in hopes of luring a company to the site. The Detroit Diesel project got a kick-start in October 2012 when the IRRRB approved a $2.5 million loan to prepare an existing building for the company. The IRRRB is set to loan $500,000 to the Chisholm-Hibbing Airport Authority to build the expansion.

The new facility is expected to retain 97 Iron Range jobs while adding about 50 new ones over the next three years, each paying from $28,392 to $52,250.

The company -- previously known as DMR Electronics --


designs, manufactures and remanufactures industrial electronic components and wiring harnesses for heavy equipment and vehicles, including for the mining industry.

Hibbing Fabricators set for $250,000

Hibbing Fabricators would get a $250,000 loan from the IRRRB and another $250,000 from a local bank under a deal on the IRRRB agenda Thursday.

The company, which produces tin metal products requiring exact tolerances for the medical, aviation, aerospace and energy industries, wants to expand production, retaining its 28 employees and possibly adding one worker.

The company received similar "bank participation loans'' from the agency in 1985, 1989, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2006, repaying all of them.

Taconite plants get some tax back

U.S. Steel's two Minnesota taconite iron ore plants -- Keetac in Keewatin and Minntac in Mountain Iron -- will get a portion of their per-ton taconite tax money back in a rebate that must be used to upgrade their plants.

Based on their taconite production in 2012, Keetac will get $1.53 million of the tax back and add $1.26 million of their own money for two projects totaling $2.85 million.


Minntac will get $3.86 million of tax rebated while spending more than $3.5 million on two projects to upgrade the state's largest taconite mine and processing plant.

State lawmakers developed the rebate program as a way to reduce taxes and ensure the long-term viability of the plants.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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