Thursday, July 17, 2008 By Aaron Brown
At issue were the complaints of Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) who was critical of the concept of hiring a business recruiter for the agency and much of the staff time spent on various meetings. You'll recall that Iron Range Resources is the state agency dedicated to public works and economic development using local mining tax revenue.
Rukavina was able to hold off passage of the vote by virtue of there not being enough "yes" votes in attendance. He eventually related on the matter of hiring the business recruiter. When the board meets in full, the budget will likely pass, but Rukavina has made his point.
I don't want to declare one side in this right or wrong; I think there's some of both. But Rukavina raises some very good points. I would argue there are some fundamental problems with how economic development has been practiced on the Range for the last decade, not just by the agency, but by the cities and chambers across the region. We need to build an environment where jobs are created naturally. We can't just go out and "snag" businesses like they were crappies. It doesn't work that way.
And, since conservative tax cut programs like JOBZ have had mixed results at best, we need to consider the fact that the most economically liberal DFLers and most fiscally conservative Republicans, and many of those in between, need to adjust to find a solution.
Meantime, the MDN did a story in which local legislators/IRR board members get grumpy about there being no new economic development projects going on right now. Hey guys. High speed internet proliferation across the Iron Range. That's a pretty good project, since you've got money burning a hole in your pocket.
Don't get the jobs; grow the jobs.