As the economic downturn continues on the Iron Range, northern Minnesota communities are rallying to find new opportunities for the region.
On Wednesday, Minnesota Public Radio hosted a forum on efforts to diversify the region's economy. Seven community members — including entrepreneurs, a mining expert and an outdoor recreation advocate — pitched their ideas to generate jobs and breathe new life into Range communities.
Visions for the future of the Range
Rolf Weberg on ways to reduce the Mine/Don't Mine divide
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Rolf Weberg serves as executive director of the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He discussed Minnesota's mineral opportunities and possible approaches to could reduce polarization and foster constructive communication.
Jessalyn Sabin on how young people are revitalizing the Iron Range
Jessalyn Sabin is an instructor at Hibbing Community College and a co-founder of ReGen, a group working to build community and retain new talent on the Range. She spoke about the role of young people in building quality of life and shaping the future of the region.
Brendan Jordan on biofuels and the potential for the Iron Range
Brendan Jordan leads the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota. The industry-led coalition is pushing for development of facilities on the Iron Range to produce chemicals and fuels from plant material. This effort has gained steam in recent years, and Jordan spoke about the potential benefits it holds.
Aaron Hautala on biking, the economy and crazy ideas
Aaron Hautala is volunteer president of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew, a chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). He's an active leader in the push to transform the Cuyuna Range into a year-round destination for outdoor recreation. He spoke about his group's efforts and the the role the Cuyuna Range plays in attracting and retaining 21st century entrepreneurs and their workforce, as well as creating a vibrant local community.
Anna Anderson and Shawn Wellnitz on entrepreneurship on the Range
Anna Anderson is CEO of Art Unlimited, an online marketing firm based in Angora, Minn. She spoke with Shawn Wellnitz about the upside of supporting small businesses to build and sustain a local economy. Wellnitz is CEO of the Entrepreneur Fund, which provides small business financing and strategic support for entrepreneurs in northern Minnesota.