IRRRB actions invest in schools, continue quixotic land plans

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board gathered last Thursday for a meeting. The headline was a $3.65 million investment in education initiatives and jobs projects. Business North has a roundup of the activities, including a decided tilt toward higher education spending.

I’m biased (I teach for a community college that benefits from these deals), but honestly believe that workforce training and retraining is a big part of the Range’s future. So this is encouraging.

The board also OK’d the construct for how mineral funds can be spent by area public school districts in response to legislation allocating more money to Iron Range schools.

Also in the mix was an odd land sale deal involving the city of Chisholm and a private land owner in neighboring Balkan Township. The board OK’d the commissioner to negotiate a land purchase deal for 730 acres as speculative economic development land. The deal would include mineral rights, but there are no great quantities of minerals in the area.

I’m not a fan of speculative land deals, because they seldom produce fast, profitable results for cities. It’s worse when they put empty buildings on the land, like bat houses for entrepreneurs. The spec building in the link is still empty, despite its sale last year.

If the Iron Range would spend it’s economic development money on tearing down blighted buildings and replacing them with easy-to-maintain green space, art and affordable housing I think we’d be in better shape. I think entrepreneurs would be more inclined to invest here if they saw the towns were alive, rather than being begged to buy a soulless building on cheap land a few miles outside of crumbling infrastructure. Just my two cents.

As a refresher for those unfamiliar with the IRRRB, this money is derived from taxes on local iron ore production, which mines pay instead of property taxes. So the money should rightly be considered as akin to the net property taxes on our largest and most valuable properties, to be shared by schools, counties, towns and townships for the public good. It’s distributed a little differently than how the Edina city council might do things, but is in the same realm of government activity.

This post was written by Aaron J. Brown and originally published on Minnesota Brown. Follow Aaron on Twitter: @minnesotabrown

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Freighter photo by Flickr user Pete Markham and used under Creative Commons license.

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