Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation (IRRR) Board recently recommended approval for funding a number of economic development projects within the Taconite Assistance Area (TAA). During the meeting which took place at IRRR headquarters near Eveleth, the board recommended $7.1 million in funding across a broad range of projects including community city, county and township infrastructure, broadband, outdoor recreation and education.

In our part of Minnesota, the TAA boundary encompasses the Crosby-Ironton and Aitkin school districts. While no active mining has occurred on the Cuyuna Iron Range in over a generation, mining activity to our north on the Mesabi Range continues to provide substantial taconite production taxes that are reinvested in all three iron ranges within Minnesota.

The IRRR provides funding directly to local government entities to encourage economic growth. To qualify for IRRR dollars, local matches from government entities and the private sector are necessary. During the recent meeting, the $7.1 million in taconite assistance dollars leveraged a combined local government and private sector investment of approximately $83 million.

The projects are expected to increase the regional tax base, create permanent and construction jobs, provide essential services, support education and expand outdoor recreation. The infrastructure grants combined are anticipated to impact 46 jobs and create 356 construction jobs.

The FY23 Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation budget was also approved at the meeting. The $52.0 million dollar budget covers the period July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023. The agency’s Fiscal Year 23 spending plan of $52 million is up just slightly above the current $51.9 million plan which completes at the end of this month.

IRRR Agency funding relies on the taconite production tax for revenue. Because iron mining and steel production is very sensitive to both national and international market forces, unlike other government entities, the IRRR builds its annual budget on already collected taconite production taxes.

That approach, along with a historic three-year revenue baseline average for current spending, provides a cushion against rapid market driven swings that are beyond the agency’s control. Additionally, by maintaining sufficient reserve funds, the agency can provide stable, predictable support for local units of government even when unforeseen events damage other portions of our economy.

The IRRR is focused on community asset development that helps to ensure northeastern Minnesota continues to be a desirable place to live, work and raise a family.

Dale Lueck (R) is the state representative for District 10B.

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