Our state is facing an unparalleled series of challenges right now. Too many workers are looking for good-paying jobs to sustain their families. Teachers and parents are overcoming difficulties to ensure students can get the education they deserve as they navigate a new educational frontier. A dangerous virus we still know little about continues to threaten our public health. I truly believe our ability to work together and solve these problems will determine our state’s success for the next decade or more.
This November, I’m asking residents of Lake, Cook, Koochiching, and St. Louis counties for the opportunity to continue taking part in this work.
I’m proud of our state’s efforts to quickly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, both with regard to our public health and in mitigating economic impacts. There’s more to do, though, and we need solutions to protect Minnesotans from the virus, particularly those most at-risk, while ensuring our businesses and schools can get back to normal as soon as possible.
Overall, investments in the fundamental things we all value — such as a quality education for every student; affordable, accessible health care for all Minnesotans; and economic security for families — will be strong pillars of our recovery.
Good-paying jobs are crucial to turning our economy around. At the Capitol, I’ve worked to help pass a strong package of capital investments that will not just strengthen our public infrastructure — like wastewater treatment plants, roads and bridges, parks and trails, and more — but create jobs right now at a time when we desperately need them. I’m proud to support new opportunities in the mining industry, like PolyMet and Twin Metals, and the completion of the Line 3 Replacement Project to help get more folks the opportunity to earn a paycheck. This is the type of work that requires bipartisan solutions that I feel I’m uniquely equipped to tackle in St. Paul.
Beyond our immediate difficulties we’re facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must take a longer-term vision to strengthen our rural economy. A lack of high-speed broadband access remains a barrier to attracting, growing, and maintaining businesses. Without internet access, it’s nearly impossible to bring products to a global marketplace. Additionally, large employers are looking to telecommuting options for their employees, and without broadband, our region can’t be home to these workers. I’m proud to have championed legislation investing $40 million in our state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program. While this is a significant investment, large gaps in reliable internet coverage remain throughout our region. Many of our students struggled to complete schoolwork prior to COVID-19, and since its emergence, distance learning has exacerbated these difficulties even further. It’s 2020, and high-speed internet can no longer be seen as just a luxury for businesses, students, and families. Rather, it’s time we treat it as the necessity it is.
Northern Minnesota is a special place, and I’m committed to protecting the heritage we’ve enjoyed for generations. I’ve successfully carried funding our ATV trails, parks, public campgrounds, habitat, and clean-water resources across the finish line. If re-elected, I’ll remain committed to the type of investments that maintain our rural character while giving our communities the opportunity to prosper in the 21st century.
Down at the state Capitol, I’ve built a track record of working with people of all political leanings to help deliver for our region and improve the way of life across our whole state. I’d be honored to continue in my role as an effective, proven voice for northern Minnesota.
Rob Ecklund is the DFL representative of Minnesota House District 3A, being challenged in the Nov. 3 election by Republican Thomas Manninen. He wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.