Today on the MPR News Update, we learn about an effort to help war veterans integrate into the workforce, what the DNR hopes to learn from the state's first official wolf hunt, the impending closure of downtown St. Paul's only major retail store, and how the newest members of Congress will fare on bitterly divided Capitol Hill.
WOLF HUNT ENDS: It's been just over a year since federal officials took the gray wolf off the endangered species list for the western Great Lakes region, prompting talk of a hunting season in Minnesota. Now, the state's first sanctioned wolf hunt is almost over, and Dan Stark, wolf specialist for the Department of Natural Resources, says, I think for the most part the mechanics of it have worked pretty well."
WORKING VETERANS: An intensive effort to help Minnesota's military veterans find civilian jobs is paying off. Most of the 2,700 National Guard soldiers from Minnesota 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division who returned from the Middle East last spring have found work, say Guard officials, who wanted to help returning soldiers get back to work as quickly as possible and avoid problems that can stem from joblessness -- among them drug and alcohol abuse and family conflict.
HORMEL BUYS SKIPPY: Austin-based food maker Hormel says it is buying the Skippy peanut butter brand from Unilever. The company announced the acquisition Thursday morning and said it expected to pay about $700 million dollars for the peanut butter maker. It's particularly keen on using the deal to make greater inroads in the Asian market.
ST. PAUL MACY'S CLOSING: Macy's confirmed Thursday that it will close its downtown St. Paul retail store as part of what it called "normal-course adjustments" across its United States properties -- including other Minnesota stores. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman put an optimistic outlook on the closing, calling it an opportunity to launch another redevelopment in downtown.
ORCHESTRAL MANEUVERS: It may be the case that little news is good news in the contract negotiations at both of the Twin Cities major orchestras. Representatives of the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra met separately with their respective musicians today to restart talks. The negotiations have been stalled for several weeks.
THEY'RE BACK: The 113th Congress will convene Thursday at the constitutionally required time of noon for pomp, pageantry and politics as newly elected members of the House (including Minnesota DFL Rick Nolan) and Senate are sworn in, and the speaker of the Republican-controlled House is chosen. The traditions come against the backdrop of a mean season that closed out an angry election year.
RENEWABLES SPARED THE CLIFF: Key tax credits for the biodiesel and wind industries have been renewed as part of the fiscal cliff legislation. A credit of $1 per gallon for the biodiesel industry had expired at the end of 2011, hurting U.S. production of the soybean based fuel.
SILICA SAND APPEAL: A citizens' group in Wabasha has appealed the city's recent decision to allow a Calgary-based company to set up a silica sand transport facility. City Planner Molly Patterson-Lundgren said the City Council has 60 days to respond to the appeal.
LAST PLACE POLICING: A St. Louis County judge has ordered the controversial Duluth head shop Last Place on Earth to pay for police presence outside its downtown storefront. Duluth police estimate it costs about $1,200 a day for two police officers outside the store, the only retailer in the area that sells synthetic drugs.
KETTLE CONCERNS: The Salvation Army in Minnesota and North Dakota is still pushing to reach its 2012 Holiday campaign goal, after falling about 7 percent short. The charity set a $9.8 million goal for its 2012 Twin Cities Christmas campaign, down slightly from last year.