In 2015, while the broader American economy grew modestly, global market conditions and competitive pressures from overseas resulted in the idling of iron ore mines and layoffs for thousands of people who work in the mining industry. The numerous businesses that provide support to the mining operations – businesses like ours – felt the detrimental impacts as well.

Today, many of these iron ore mines remain indefinitely idled and hundreds of individuals are still waiting to return to work.

The companies and workers of Minnesota’s taconite industry have risen to these market challenges by aggressively cutting costs and maximizing efficiencies to preserve the competitiveness of these operations. But those cost cutting measures alone are insufficient. More must be done to ensure the continued viability of this region’s bedrock industry.

It can feel overwhelming when the industry that is the economic engine of our region is suffering due to global pressures that are out of our control. However, we should remember that we can do something: we can support policies that contribute to the long-term competitiveness of Minnesota’s taconite industry and we expect the State of Minnesota to do so as well.

That is why we support the ‘energy intensive – trade exposed’ (EITE) electric rate petition, filed last month by Minnesota Power.

Energy accounts for a quarter of the cost to produce a ton of taconite pellets. And even though our region’s mining operations take every opportunity to increase their efficiency, the nature of taconite production requires a lot of energy. Approval of this filing will make electric power more competitive for these core energy consumers.

Rate relief is needed urgently. Electric rates for the iron mines have increased over 60 percent since 2007, and without the EITE rate adjustment, they are projected to go up another 20 percent in the coming five years.

These increases to our energy costs are not sustainable in a competitive global market where foreign companies benefit from government subsidies and “dump” steel in the United States at prices well below the cost of production, displacing steel manufactured from Minnesota’s taconite pellets.

That is why the Minnesota Legislature passed legislation that would put ‘energy intensive trade exposed customers’ on a more level playing field with foreign competitors. The Legislature recognized this rate credit will be one important factor that helps support an economic recovery on the Range and helps keep the industry competitive in the face of global market pressures. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission must recognize this as well by approving this important rate adjustment that will help keep Northeast Minnesota’s major industries and our communities strong.

We encourage you to learn more about the EITE proposal and how it will help businesses in your community by visiting

Nels Ojard, president/CEO

Krech Ojard & Associates, Duluth

Randy Abernethy, president

Industrial Weldors and Machinists, Duluth

Jerry Fryberger, chair

Hallett Dock Company, Duluth

Bruce Mars, executive vice president/ president

WP & RS Mars Co. /Conveyor Belt Service, Inc., Duluth

Dwight Day, president

TUFCO, Inc., Eveleth

Jason Janisch, vice president

Jasper Engineering, Hibbing

Bill Whiteside, president

W. R. Whiteside & Equipment, Hibbing

Jim Perry, president

Furin and Shea, Hibbing

Art Lind, president

Lind Industrial, Hibbing

Jim Hoolihan, president

Industrial Lubricant, Grand Rapids

Steven Harms, territory manager

Pit and Quarry Supply, Virginia