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$300 million MOA expansion to break ground this month

Essar Steel frustrating state officials; farm groups want equipment-repair tax repealed; young farmers increasing; benefits of treadmill desks touted; and more.

A rendering of Mall of America's upcoming Phase 1 expansion project, which will include an office building, hotel, retail shops, restaurants and underground parking.
Courtesy of DLR Group

At City Pages, Aaron Rupar reports: “A Mall of America official confirmed this morning that groundbreaking on a $300 million expansion project on the north side of the mall will take place before March is through. The project will involve construction of a luxury hotel, office tower, an event area ‘similar to our rotunda,’ new retail space, and an underground parking ramp, according to Dan Jasper, MOA VP of public relations.” Please let there be more shoe stores …

The story of Essar Steel up north is basically the story of one big mess. Says John Myers in the Duluth News Tribune: “[E]very other month or so Essar Steel Minnesota is in the news, and the news usually isn’t good for the fledgling taconite company that broke ground in 2008 and has all its permits in place but still isn’t producing any iron ore. Now, state officials are again frustrated that Essar isn’t paying its bills to contractors and that the future of the project appears in limbo. Late last year, work had slowed to a crawl on the massive, $1.7 billion project as money to pay for construction had run dry.”

Among all the taxes under consideration for repeal (many before they even start), Andrea Johnson of the Minnesota Farm Guide writes: “Several farm groups, including the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Farm Bureau and Farmers Union, want to see the repeal of a 2013 sales tax placed on farm equipment repair labor. … The farm equipment repair labor tax raises about $28 million over two years.”

Speaking of … Some interesting numbers on Minnesota farmers … Jonathan Knutson of the Forum News Service writes: “The number of farmers aged 25 to 34 has risen, a welcome change in an economic sector where, by all accounts, more young blood is needed. Nationwide, the U.S. had 109,146 farmers aged 25 to 34 in 2012, up from 106,735 in 2007. Complete 2012 census results, including county-level and commodity data, won’t be available until this spring. But preliminary results of the survey — conducted every five years — indicate that farms, on average, are bigger, fewer and more prosperous.”

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I assume you’re trendy enough to be reading this at your treadmill desk … For WCCO-TV, Angela Davis says: “The University of Minnesota just released the findings of a study that looked at the benefits of treadmill desks. … The maximum speed is slow — just two miles per hour, but researchers have found the benefits of walking while you work are huge. Researchers at the Carlson School of Management at the U spent a year looking at what happened when 40 workers at a Twin Cities financial services company had their offices refitted with treadmills in front of their desks. During that year, they surveyed the workers and their supervisors, and discovered productivity was increased, as well as creativity.” Periodic floggings might work as well.

Not exactly Las Vegas, but not bad … In the St. Cloud Times: “A new National Park Service report says Minnesota’s national parklands drew more than 600,000 visitors who spent more than $34 million and supported more than 500 jobs in the state in 2012.”

But how embarrassing would it be if had to be played in one of our -15 “high” temperatures? In the Strib, Michael Russo says: “During a pit stop in the Twin Cities on his way back to New York on Monday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spent Monday afternoon touring Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium with Craig Leipold as the Wild owner continued his lengthy effort to bring Minnesota an outdoor game. ‘It’s something we know the club wants, that Craig wants and the fans want, and we’ll be responsive,’ Bettman said before watching Monday night’s Wild-Calgary Flames game.” … Indoors, like any sane adult.

Also, the Strib is pro-property tax cuts. In an editorial, it says: “Count this page among those hoping for a bigger break. It seemed doable because state lawmakers raised income and tobacco taxes in order to ease the squeeze on schools and local governments. School funding saw a $485 million boost over two years, while cities and counties were granted a sales tax exemption worth $250 million more. But count us too among fans of the $133 million boost this year in refunds to qualifying taxpayers. The income-driven property tax refund and renters’ credit are well-designed programs that this year will reach an estimated 550,000 property owners and renters — up 140,000 from the number previously eligible.”

I’m certain it’s safe … John Flesher of the AP writes: “[T]he Straits of Mackinac is drawing attention for something that is out of sight and usually out of mind, and which some consider a symbol of the dangers lurking in the nation’s sprawling web of buried oil and natural gas pipelines. Stretched across the bottom of the waterway at depths reaching 270 feet are two 20-inch pipes that carry nearly 23 million gallons of crude oil daily. They are part of the 1,900-mile Lakehead network, which originates in North Dakota near the Canadian border. A segment known as Line 5 slices through northern Wisconsin.”