Minnesota Steel Industries supporters quote a lengthy list of superlatives.
MSI would be the nation's first iron mine-to-steel mill in one location, the world's most efficient steelmaking operation, and, they claim, the largest industrial project in Minnesota history.
It will cost $1.7 billion, employ 2,000 construction workers, create 700 full-time jobs, and up to three times that many spinoff jobs.
State Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, says the project will bring economic stability to the western Iron Range that it hasn't had in a number of years.
"If you look at Itasca County compared to, for instance, St. Louis County, there's no comparison in terms of per capita income," Saxhaug says. "We've suffered with this for many, many years. And of course, it hasn't helped any that our major industrial manufacturer, the Blandin Paper Company, has cut 600 jobs in the last five years."
It took a major land swap between the state of Minnesota and the Blandin paper company to secure the property for Minnesota Steel. Itasca County has promised infrastructure including roads, a gas pipeline, and a railroad.
It's taken permits from agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
MSI would be the nation's first iron mine-to-steel mill in one location and the largest industrial project in Minnesota history.
The head of Minnesota Steel says the company hasn't taken shortcuts or sought special favors in the environmental review process.
"We've done everything environmentally the right way," says President and CEO John Elmore. "We've had two and a half years of public comment coming in to it. It's been a long process, but we feel the right process."
But it's no surprise an industrial project this size could still have adverse impacts.
Kevin Reuther with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy says he's worried about haze from the plant blowing over the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. He thinks emissions from the plant will hurt visibility in the federal wilderness. Reuther plans to raise that issue Friday with the MPCA board.
Reuther adds he's disappointed that carbon emissions were never considered in the environmental permitting process. Carbon dioxide is believed to be a big contributor to global warming. The steel plant, he says, will release carbon dioxide at a level similar to South Dakota's Big Stone II coal-fired power plant.
Environmental advocates aren't the only ones concerned. Take Roger Kowalsky, who lives near the proposed plant site.
"We have a moderate home on Little McCarthy Lake," Kowalsky says. "I recently retired, and we spend a lot of time in the yard. You know, we're outdoor people. So, right now we get up in the morning, we go outside with our cup of coffee, and we hear the wind and the birds."
The new plant will be about a mile from their house.
"It's going to be the horns beeping, the bulldozer tracks clanking," Kowalsky says. "There's going to be a railroad, so there will be the whistles, coupling cars, plus just the noise from the trucks and the plant itself. So we're kind of upset."
Kowalsky says his neighbors across the road will be eligible for a buyout. But Kowalsky's house isn't.
"They feel that us being 30, 40 feet from their boundary, it's not going to affect us," Kowalsky says. "Well, it's going to. We're not happy about it."
Kowalsky's not optimistic, but he's still hoping they'll buy his place.
Meanwhile, there's a slew of promising industrial projects proposed for the Iron Range, but none will have the regional economic impact or the employment numbers expected from Minnesota Steel Industries. On the Iron Range, the steel plant is the big fish.
Things get rolling quickly if the MPCA Citizen's Board approves Minnesota Steel's air permits Friday. The permits come to the board with a staff recommendation for approval. If that happens, site preparation could begin by year's end.