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UMD Chancellor Lendley Black, Center for Economic Development Director Elaine Hansen, Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, NRRI Director Mike Lalich and Dept. of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Mark Phillips

UMD Receives Federal Mining Cluster Grant


Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and UMD Chancellor Lendley Black at an economic summit
The objective of the Northeastern Minnesota Mining Cluster is to provide funding for minerals research, workforce development and small business development in northeastern Minnesota in support of the regional mining industry.

UMD's Center for Economic Development (CED) and Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) will receive a portion of a $1.9 million federal Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge to boost jobs and spur businesses in the mining industry, one of the state's most important industries

Three federal agencies, U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA), U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (ETA), and Small Business Administration (SBA), will provide funding.

Collectively, the Mining Cluster members account for more than a third of Northeastern Minnesota's gross regional product. Projected development in the areas of non-ferrous (metals that don't contain iron) minerals, value-added products and by-products are providing significant additional economic potential.

Regionally, the grants are expected to create 655 new jobs, hold potential in the long-term for 3,000 non-ferrous mining jobs, result in the start of at least 13 new businesses and train hundreds of new workers. These efforts will complement the job and workforce development goals of Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's administration and regional leaders.

"The University of Minnesota Duluth is proud of the quality graduates and the range of services it provides the mining industry," said Chancellor Lendley C. Black. "As Northeastern Minnesota enters a new era in both ferrous and non-ferrous mining, we are honored to have received one of the nation's twenty Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge grants. This grant will increase our research capacity on the use of mining industry by-products and resource recovery, as well as the ability to provide additional technical assistance to our regional businesses that are the foundation of our regional mining cluster."

An $800,000 EDA grant will assist NRRI with research on the use of iron ore by-products as aggregate; rare earth minerals potential; titanium dioxide recovery processing; non-ferrous and precious metals recovery; producing iron units from lean ore stockpiles; using Lake Superior dredging sediment in the reclamation of iron ore tailings basins; developing biomass energy resources at mining facilities; and support of product development and manufacturing efficiencies to entrepreneurs and small businesses. NRRI will provide an $800,000 match to the grant.

"NRRI has been working hand-in-glove with Minnesota's taconite mining industry for more than 25 years, helping them with product and process efficiencies," said NRRI Director Mike Lalich. "We've also been a partner in developing Minnesota's non-ferrous mining potential. The funds will allow us to increase our research capacity and provide additional technical assistance to this vital industry, including entrepreneurs and small companies that focus on serving the primary mining companies."

The UMD Center for Economic Development and Small Business Development Center (SBCD) for Northeast Minnesota, will receive a $150,000 SBA annual grant to provide technical assistance and educational opportunities to entrepreneurs and businesses in the region, directly and indirectly supporting the mining industry and mining industry cluster. Particular emphasis will be used to provide strategies to businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans, service-disabled veterans, and tribes. Assistance will be provided on topics including feasibility analysis, business planning, start-up assistance, stabilization, exporting products and services, loan packaging, cash-flow analysis, marketing, the use of technology and social media, expansion, innovation and intellectual property. In partnership with NRRI, the SBDC will assist businesses in developing new products and bringing those products to market.

"We offer assistance to the businesses that support the mining industry," said Center for Economic Development Director Elaine Hansen. "When we see technological innovation, we can give entrepreneurs and business owners the tools they need to become stronger. In that way, we assist the region in economic diversification."

Northeast Higher Education District (NHED) colleges, in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and Minnesota Workforce Center, together will receive a $998,985 ETA grant to provide a skilled workforce to meet the needs of existing and emerging industries.

The grants to CED and NRRI are among 20 federal Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge grants totaling $37 million made to high-growth regional industry clusters across the nation and are expected to create more than 4,800 jobs, 300 new businesses, retain 2,400 jobs and train approximately 4,000 workers for careers. Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge grants are awarded by the Obama administration to advance high-growth regional industry clusters to spur job creation and accelerate economic growth.

Written by Cheryl Reitan, Oct. 2011

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