Ideas for Economic Resilience in the Iron Range

Every place – no different than a person – has its distinct personality. This personality is a reflection of a place’s history, strengths and weaknesses, people, assets, and prospective future. The Iron Range in Northeastern Minnesota is no exception.

Hibbing, Minnesota   Photo by David Joles, Star Tribune

If an individual travels to the various towns in this region, they will not have to look hard to see its proud history of immigration, hard work, and perseverance. The region has a prominent historic connection to the Iron Mining industry, but with a closer look, one will learn that each town making up this place has its own unique charisma, attitude, and identity.

“You are thinking about the Range wrong if you’re looking at just one particular small town and what that town has. You really need to think of the Range… kind of like light as both a particle and a wave – the Range is both rural and not. Each little town is actually more like a neighborhood in this big city. Each is actually part of an economy and a political system that is bigger.” (Aaron Brown, Minnesota Brown)

These differing – yet interconnected – identities add to the refreshing complexity and beauty of this region, but they may also act as barriers dividing communities, and the future prospects of a place that would greatly benefit from unity, collaboration, revitalization, and leadership.

Economic development is frequently talked about on the Iron Range, the region is hit harder than the rest of the state during economic downturns and through the frequent ups and downs of mine production. Emphasis on resiliency would reduce the negative impact of these forces on the Iron Range. Resiliency in the range would act as a durable platform for wealth creation and quality of life improvements, no matter what happens in the future. These case studies we present are conservative and low-risk investments that should be common sense when building strong towns.

This website presents the research and recommendations of three Macalester students who spent time studying the sustainable economic diversification of small communities similar to Northeastern Minnesota. Included are  strategies that introduce novel ways to diversify and beautify the towns, communities, and economy in Northeastern Minnesota.