It’s like the Capulets and Montagues. Hatfields and McCoys. Vikings fans and Packers fans. Mining and tourism are often pitted as rivals in northern Minnesota, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it shouldn’t be.
Both the mining and tourism industries are critical to Minnesota’s economy and way of life, especially up north. And while they’re both important, they play vastly different roles. You can have one without the other, but our state is stronger when both sectors thrive. The strength of our economy is more important than a rivalry between industries.
A few months ago at the SME (Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration) Conference, Mining Minnesota shared results of an economic impact study conducted by Praxis Study Group (PSG) in 2016. The study took a close look at the impact of both the tourism and mining industries on the Duluth-Arrowhead region and the results were compelling. It showed that together, these two industries contribute to a diverse, strong economy.
It’s no secret that many choose to live and visit the Duluth-Arrowhead region because of the outdoor opportunities. It’s paradise on earth. People love the scenery. The fresh air. Our big, beautiful lake. They love to get outside and enjoy hiking the trails, mountain biking, road biking, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, exploring the Boundary Waters and so much more. Locals even make the most of winter by way of cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dog sports, ice fishing, etc. The lists go on and on – a little ice and snow doesn’t stop this crowd. And these activities are enjoyable because of the region’s dedication to protecting our environment. They’re also enjoyable when enthusiasts can afford to participate. Some of those hobbies are expensive to maintain.
That means regional workers need high paying jobs. And some of the region’s highest paying jobs come from the mining industry. The PSG study showed the mining industry employs over 5,000 workers and the average salary is $80,000 per year. In addition, the mining industry supports thousands of jobs in other important sectors in our region. Without mining, northern Minnesota would be without many jobs in healthcare, retail, government, construction and tourism, among others. The tourism industry, however, employs over 6,000 people, but those jobs are often part-time or seasonal – and the average salary is only about $18,000 per year.
Mining creates high-quality jobs and the tourism economy and outdoor opportunities improve enjoyment of our region for both residents and visitors. Without a doubt, the tourism industry contributes to our region’s unique identity. It is a key part of local quality of life and makes the Duluth-Arrowhead region a place where people – including mining workers – want to build their homes and families. People come here for a reason. Let’s keep them here with good paying jobs.
Together, mining and tourism create our region’s character. We work hard and we play hard. We take every opportunity we can to get outside and enjoy the fun, excitement and challenge our land offers. We also have mining rooted deep in our history. It’s oftentimes in our blood as many of our fathers or grandfathers proudly worked in iron ore mines – and we’ll continue the tradition today in a responsible, ethical and environmentally conscious manner. Because it is better in our backyard #betterinourbackyard.