Brooks is an investigative reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune.
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DULUTH — For high school students, having a job is less a rite of passage than a novelty these days. In Minnesota and across the country, fewer teenagers are working despite all sorts of opportunities to pick up that first paycheck. And without early job experiences, the workforce of tomorrow may not be equipped with workplace basics.
DULUTH — For decades, the majority of the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior, Wis., lived under the threat of a concentrated chlorine spill, which could have spread over 10 miles and sickened up to 128,000 people in an unlikely, though technically possible, worst-case scenario. Then in 2006, Western Lake Superior Sanitary District decided to do away with the risk altogether.
SUPERIOR, Wis. — As burning asphalt poured a plume of black smoke over Douglas County on April 26, a 15,000-pound chemical bomb was ticking. If everything had gone wrong that tense day, a vapor cloud of toxic hydrogen fluoride could have spread from the Husky oil refinery across the Twin Ports, injuring thousands. Firefighters averted that worst-case scenario and extinguished the fire late that night. But the risk remains, and it probably will for years to come.
Minnesota is on track to have its deadliest winter on the ice in years. And it's only December. Five people have died after falling through the ice on Minnesota lakes so far this season, the most since five died over the entire winter of 2014-15, according to the Department of Natural Resources. "With the fluctuating temperatures we've seen, that hasn't created that nice, solid, clear ice," said DNR spokeswoman Lisa Dugan. "Ice is never 100 percent safe."
DULUTH — More than a third of the iron ore shipped out of the Twin Ports so far this year has left the country. The Duluth-Superior Port Authority reported that through July about 35 percent of all taconite shipments have been taken to Quebec, and spokeswoman Adele Yorde says that is "primarily for export" elsewhere. Typically about 30 percent of taconite shipped locally is bound for Canada. "Much of that rise is attributable to a surge in U.S. iron ore exports from Minnesota mines to steelmakers in China and Japan," the port wrote in its summer magazine.
DULUTH — Iron ore was cruising out of the Twin Ports last month as this shipping season continued its best start since 2013. "The first three months looked strong — that's obviously reflective of all six (taconite) production facilities being online this year," said Adele Yorde, spokeswoman for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. "We hope the strength of the steel market will continue through this shipping season and into 2018."
Ascena Retail Group, the parent company of Duluth-based Maurices, has reported a $1 billion quarterly loss tied to a massive write-down and a continued decline in sales, and says it may close up to 650 stores.
Minnesota Power is partnering with another utility to build a $700 million natural gas power plant in Superior.
A wide swath of Minnesotans interact with a homegrown, billion-dollar business every day — without leaving the house, without turning on a computer, without blinking. Just don't expect all of them to know the name of that company. Allete Inc. is known best, and for some solely, as the parent of Minnesota Power. And while the electric utility is still the corporation's biggest source of income, Allete has been expanding its energy empire and searching for a new balance.
Cloquet’s match and toothpick factory is closing, and 85 people will lose their jobs there as a result, owner Newell Brands announced Monday, May 1. The plant produces Diamond matches and toothpicks, a business that New Jersey-based Newell sold last month to Georgia-based Royal Oak Enterprises LLC. The new owners of the brand decided not to take the Cloquet operation with them.