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Business North - The Daily Briefing - Business Newspaper Online
Dahlberg: St. Louis County should be more pro-business
The St. Louis County Board should put more focus on creating a business-friendly atmosphere, Chris Dahlberg, its new chair, said recently.
Every arm of government should offer a reasonable process to accommodate business needs, said the second-term commissioner, who also serves on the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.
“We got a man to the moon in eight years in the 1960s but can’t open a mining operation on the Range in the same length of time,” he lamented, referring to the lengthy environmental process that PolyMet has faced in its bid to mine nonferrous minerals.
Like the situation is Northwestern Wisconsin, people don’t unanimously believe the existing process is broken. County Commissioner Steve O’Neil, for example, doesn’t believe the process needs to operate more quickly. He and others already believe the board has been pro-business toward many industries.
Dahlberg, however, whose district is home to heavy industry, believes the green jobs movement is tilting against gritty, but necessary, jobs.
In addition to owning a Duluth law firm, Dahlberg is an Army captain who served as economic team chief while in Baghdad. His responsibilities included providing micro development grants to owners of small firms.
“For every $1,900 we gave out, one job was created, primarily in the textile industry,” he said.
Dahlberg wants St. Louis County to improve its communication with the business community, creating a relationship similar to the one between Iron Range companies and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. He said he’s working with county planning director Barbara Hayden toward that goal.
Some efforts, he said, will have to be made on the lobbying front. For instance, Dahlberg said he’d like to see a change in the state law that governs tax increment finance districts. A longer life span is needed, he said, to facilitate longer-term projects such as improving the former U.S. Steel property in far western Duluth, a Superfund site he believes is ripe for development.
More difficult, Dahlberg said, is changing a growing mindset against heavy industry.
“I’m a little bit nervous about all the talk regarding green jobs. I’m sure there are jobs there, but they go so overboard. Some people feel it’s got to be green to be beautiful and all industry is ugly,” he said. “We can protect our environment and jobs at the same time. The path is there for co-existence, and it’s based on scientific reason and logic, not emotions.”
He also wants to educate Washington about the lost opportunity costs associated with delayed developments such as PolyMet. Dahlberg hopes to assemble a group of public officials and private business owners to bring that message to Minnesota’s legislative delegation in Washington.
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