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Local View: Legislation could threaten Northland's bright tech future

From the column: "With exemplary leadership, the nickel mined on the Iron Range will power the world’s next generation of cellphone technology. The entire northern shelf of the state, blessed with its cool temps, is a natural fit for high-tech companies that might want to locate (here)."

Van Hayden.jpg
Van Hayden
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I’ve been blessed to have been born in Minnesota and to have had the benefit of growing up a proud resident of the Northland, attending and graduating from public schools in Duluth. I have been a grateful beneficiary of Duluth’s investment in quality public education, the arts, and other civic institutions that guided my development.

For the past 33 years, I have traveled the country from east to west, plying my craft as a film and television production technician. During those three-plus decades, my industry has transformed from analog film production to digital technology.

The Arriflex and Panavision film cameras were the industry standard when I started my career. They once captured images at 24 frames per second but were surpassed a decade ago by the latest cameras with electronic chips that capture images recorded in inexplicable sequences of zeros and ones.

Not only has the capture of images undergone revolutionary change, so has the way people access those images via the internet, web servers, and newly coined household-named streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, to name a few.

It’s a thrilling time to speculate about what technology breakthroughs will follow in the next 50 years. It will take our combined efforts and partners from the business, civic, and government sectors to ensure the Northland continues to grow its technological muscle as high-speed broadband is extended to every county of our state.

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If it proved anything, the great pandemic vividly illustrated the fundamental fairness issues at stake in ensuring all of Minnesota’s children be entitled to access the world-class educational opportunities available to every Minnesotan via a few keystrokes and not limited by the zip codes in which they reside.

Duluth, a regional hub for world-class health care, will need access to the latest technological breakthroughs to maintain its place at the forefront of the industry. Whether shipping in the Twin Ports or mining on the Range, we must continue encouraging robust technological investment to lure the cutting-edge tech leaders of today and to train those of tomorrow.

With exemplary leadership, the nickel mined on the Iron Range will power the world’s next generation of cellphone technology. The entire northern shelf of the state, blessed with its cool temps, is a natural fit for high-tech companies that might want to locate their most considerable data servers there to reduce their enormous air-conditioning costs. There are countless reasons to promote Minnesota as “The Technology State.”

I applaud Sen. Amy Klobuchar for not pursuing federal antitrust legislation during this year's session. This leadership is needed to foster economic opportunity and to help our communities in the Northland thrive from those opportunities.

Now is not the time to foreclose the Northland from the emerging economic boom that could be derailed by well-intentioned legislation aimed at curbing significant tech development. Although well-meaning, I am concerned about the possible overreach of such proposed federal legislation, albeit well-meaning.

Moving forward, it is time to hang a sign on the entrance door of our region, blinking boldly: “Open For Business.”

Van Hayden is a filmmaker, former News Tribune intern, and graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth who lives in Minnesota and Los Angeles. He wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.

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