$200K loan helped MN Senate president's business hang on

Senator Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, chief author of the Sunday liquor bill
Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, in February 2017. A more than century-old scrap metal business owned by Miller was among hundreds of thousands of businesses nationwide to get a boost from the Treasury Department’s Payroll Protection Program.
Glen Stubbe | Star Tribune via AP 2017

A more than century-old scrap metal business owned by the Minnesota Senate president was among hundreds of thousands of businesses nationwide to get a boost from the Treasury Department's Payroll Protection Program.

Miller Scrap, co-owned by GOP state Sen. Jeremy Miller of Winona, got a $200,000 loan that helped the business through the worst of the pandemic downturn without laying off a single employee or cutting benefits, said Miller, the company's chief financial officer.

The government on Monday identified some 650,000 mostly small businesses and nonprofits that applied for taxpayer money from a program designed to soften job losses due to the coronavirus.

An Associated Press check of businesses owned by top lawmakers or other figures found a range of notable applicants. Granite Falls Energy, an ethanol maker in which South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem lists an interest, shows in the Treasury data as receiving between $350,000 and $1 million.

An email to Granite Falls Energy went unanswered. A spokesperson for Noem didn't immediately respond to a question about her stake in the company.

SportsHub Games Network, a fantasy sports entertainment company whose owners include Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, is listed in the Treasury data as receiving between $350,000 to $1 million. A SportsHub executive didn't respond to a message seeking comment.

A pair of companies with ties to Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler were listed in the Treasury data as receiving loans. JobDig, a job-search website that employs Winkler, was listed as getting a $350,000 loan. Biothera, a privately held biotech company where Winkler once worked and where he still retains what he called a small number of shares, was listed as receiving between $350,000 to $1 million.

Neither company immediately returned messages left late Monday. Winkler said he was unaware of either loan until contacted by The Associated Press.

Miller, the Senate president, said the loan program came at a time when his company's business had plunged more than 60 percent.

“Having access to the PPP loan allowed us to weather the storm and keep all our employees working," Miller said. “Thankfully the economy appears to be picking up momentum, which is very encouraging. We are hoping that the worse is behind us.”

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.