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North Country Nexus

Project may steel iron range economy.
Itasca County is the site of three major planned industrial projects in Nashwauk, Taconite and Grand Rapids. Access to multiple rail lines to Duluth is a key element of Minnesota Steel's pending mill project.



ocal officials in Itasca County, Minnesota describe their county as having 1,000 lakes and more than 1,000 miles (1,609 km.) of snowboarding and skiing trails.
   Soon, state and federal regulatory agencies permitting, this 3,000- square- mile (7,770- sq.- km.) county of 43,000 people in the state's north central region will have three major industrial projects that draw superlative descriptions of their own in the steel, energy and paper manufacturing sectors. The manufacturing jobs the projects anticipate creating are welcome news in Minnesota's Iron Range, which has lost some 16,000 iron ore industry jobs since the late 1980s.
   Minnesota Steel, the company behind the state's largest industrial project in more than 30 years, has been progressing through the state's rigorous permitting process for the past two years, and the end is finally in sight. The company anticipates gaining final permitting approval by the end of the year for its US$1.6- billion project, a necessary step prior to financial closure which could come during the first quarter of 2007. An economic impact study by the University of Minnesota- Duluth projects that when the steel mill hits full capacity in 2012, it will generate $1.35 million of output in spending and $456 million in value- added spending in Itasca and neighboring St. Louis County by directly expending approximately $888 million in output and $187 million in value- added spending during operations. The mill will employ 700 and create approximately 2,000 spin- off jobs.
   "We continue to move forward and we've hit all our milestones," John Elmore, president and CEO, tells Site Selection. From a regulatory standpoint, he says, "we've found nothing that's a deal breaker."
   Elmore says navigating through Minnesota's stringent environmental permitting process has been tough, but a successful effort thus far.
   "We're abiding by all the rules. It's been a difficult process, but not an insurmountable one. The mill will use the latest technology and it's environmentally sensitive. This area understands mining and its requirements and understands the processes involved. It's been quite an extensive and not inexpensive process, but one that is very important because when we build this facility, we are here for a long, long time."

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