IRRR Board to consider education and job investments at August 8 meeting

Total public/private investment of $11.2 million, creating 42 new jobs

August 06, 2013

EVELETH, Minn.—At its Thursday, August 8 meeting in Eveleth, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) will consider investing $1.85 million from the Iron Range Higher Education Account as follows: 

• $1,000,000 to the Northeast Higher Education District (NHED) for the Iron Range Engineering (IRE) program to be used for the continued development of a higher education program that, in collaboration with private industry, will allow students to earn a Bachelor’s of Science degree in engineering from Minnesota State University Mankato. To date, 40 students have graduated from the IRE program. Most graduates were hired by top local and regional companies or continued their education.

• $500,000 to local colleges for the completion of phase II implementation of telepresence technology classrooms.

• $350,000 to local colleges for the development and implementation of a professional level Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) program on the Iron Range. 

“These projects all further our commitment to investing in an educated workforce,” said IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich. “We are pleased to support these world-class educational offerings right here in northeastern Minnesota.” 

In other business, a $945,000 bank participation loan to Cast Corporation of Hibbing also will be considered. The loan will be used to construct a 20,000 square foot building and to purchase production equipment to accommodate entry into the foundry business. The total project investment is $3.5 million. It is projected to create 15 to 16 jobs initially with plans to reach 25 to 30. Seventeen jobs will be retained. 

A $12,500 public works grant to the city of Cohasset for new water and sewer line connections to service a new retail development project and an existing business will be considered. This project will provide leverage for a new 8,500 square foot retail development. The total project investment is $1.02 million. It is projected to create 6.5 construction jobs and a number of permanent jobs.

A $350,000 public works grant to the city of Virginia for water, sewer, utility extension and site work for a new surgery center on Bailey’s Lake also will be considered. This $3.35 million project, which is an expansion of the Sundell Eye Associates Clinic, is projected to create 12 new jobs and 19.5 construction jobs. 

The IRRR Board also will consider $500,000 in funding for the Business Energy Retrofit Program (BER). Based on the success of a $250,000 pilot program held in Hibbing last year, Sertich recommends expanding the program to the entire IRRRB service area, providing grants to eligible business owners to make cost effective energy improvements on buildings they own. These grants will cover one third of the investment with the other two thirds coming from utility rebates, owner match, other energy funds or low interest loans. The Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency will administer the BER program. 

Sertich said, “A number of local business owners operate out of older buildings that are not energy efficient. This program will help them make much-needed energy improvements that will not only improve their bottom line but also make their business more competitive. In addition, the program also utilizes local contractors, vendors and bankers, which is an added benefit to the region.”

IRRR Board meetings can be viewed live or on demand anytime at www.irrrb.org. 

IRRRB is a state economic development agency headquartered in northeastern Minnesota whose mission is to promote and invest in business, community and workforce development for the betterment of northeastern Minnesota.