As a local business community, we can accomplish so much more when we listen and appreciate different points of view rather than when we draw a line in the sand and demand we all choose sides. The us-versus-them mentality isn't in the spirit of our community or in the character of northern Minnesota. Further, it devalues the importance of mining jobs in our region.
Our region is strongest when we understand and respect one another. It's strongest when we find compromise, as state Sen. Erik Simonson of Duluth called for in his opinion piece in the News Tribune last month (Lawmaker's View: "Let science, law, process dictate PolyMet permitting," March 28). Our different industries complement one another. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed.
We thrive when we keep a few key factors top of mind:
Quality jobs: Good jobs for all are what make it possible for us to make our lives here. But remember, mining jobs represent $420 million in earnings per year in the region, about $81,000 per worker.
The environment: Our unique environment makes our region a truly amazing place to live and work. We all care about our water and our environment. That's why the mining industry has invested so much in making sure we can protect the environment while we operate these mines.
Our lifestyle: People who live in the northern Minnesota love the outdoors as much as they love technology. Our lifestyles depend on the sustainable extraction of critical minerals. We're all for recycling whenever possible, but recycling alone is not enough to meet demand.
Dependence on metals: We depend on metals, plain and simple. You need stainless steel to run a restaurant. You need steel, aluminum, and titanium to create a quality mountain bike. Electric cars, solar panels, and wind turbines require a lot of copper. We all use these metals. Isn't it smarter and more sustainable to mine them close to home if we have them?
Industry supporting industry: Industries like construction, manufacturing, and mining remain at the core of our economy. When these industries thrive, they support jobs in health care, retail, government, tourism, hospitality, technology, and more. We're all in this together.
We must coexist to strengthen our region and our economy. We're at our best when all industries thrive. We all have the same goals: to provide good jobs, to protect our environment, and to make our way of life possible for years to come. We can do this - but only with mutual understanding and respect.
Laura Kircher of Duluth is a community engagement advisor for Enbridge Energy and a member of Better in Our Back Yard, a regional grassroots organization advocating for responsible industry to drive our region's primary economy.