This week the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to make a final decision as to whether the administrative law judge correctly ruled there is a critical need for the Sandpiper pipeline project and that the need exists today. While it would be highly unusual for the commission to overrule the judge after months of testimony and citizen input, I encourage the commission to see the clear need for Sandpiper in its deliberations and then to efficiently move to approve Enbridge’s proposed route.

APEX is the private sector-led business development engine for Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin. APEX’s attraction, expansion and retention efforts focus in areas including aviation, data centers, manufacturing, professional services and next-generation forest products. Since 2003, APEX efforts have impacted more than 3,640 jobs in the region, resulting in an annual regional payroll of more than $133 million and contributing to more than $18 million in state and local taxes annually.

Our region, and the economic drivers that make up our APEX membership, all do better when energy costs are low. We can see this in real time right now in large part because of this awesome domestic source of energy we seek to transport to refineries in the Sandpiper pipeline that is the subject of this Public Utilities Commission deliberation. Pipelines are clearly the most efficient, safest way to transport an energy source that we should all be proud of - and one that is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Enbridge has been a regional economic driver and partner for more than 65 years. The energy it transports helps fuel so many of our other economic leaders and the jobs they create. We know Sandpiper will create more than 1,500 great jobs in our region. We can be sure those jobs will result in spin-off jobs and support for so many other sectors in our region, many of which still are hurting.

With a combined population of about 274,000, the Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Statistical Area represents the economic heart of the Arrowhead region. Natural resources-based industries such as iron and timber remain active and important components of the regional economy. These have been harmed as of late by a lack of rail capacity, directly tied to other products being diverted off of rail in favor of oil that should be sent safely via pipelines like Sandpiper. If we are going to continue to experience significant growth among clusters of employers in the manufacturing, metal-fabrication, aerospace, telecommunications, education, health care and transportation sectors, Sandpiper and low-energy prices are required.

There has been a critical, deliberate and careful look at the need for Sandpiper, and we’ve heard from stakeholders across the spectrum. The need is clear, and the suggested route is logical. We all can encourage the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to agree with the administrative law judge - and, more importantly, the citizens of Minnesota - and permit Sandpiper. Then let’s get our regional workforce on the job building needed infrastructure.

Brian Hanson is president and CEO of APEX, a private economic development engine based in Duluth.