On a beautiful summer morning on Minnesota’s Iron Range last week, local members from several unions including the United Steelworkers—many of whom work in the taconite mines—and International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) met with U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (MN – 8) to talk about the need and opportunity presented by repairing America’s infrastructure systems and making large, industrial energy users in Minnesota more efficient. About 25 union members gathered in Mountain Iron for the roundtable discussion that also featured State Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL –Virginia).
Congressman Nolan spoke on a variety of topics, including the need for Congress to address critical transportation needs by passing a long term, fully funded transportation bill by through Congress and the importance of strong Buy America provisions to ensure materials used to repair our infrastructure systems are made here in the U.S. “I was pleased to be part of this great event and it is critical that we invest in our infrastructure to make our communities safe and healthy, create family-sustaining jobs for workers, and to cut down inefficiencies,” said Nolan.
"it is critical that we invest in our infrastructure to make our communities safe and healthy, create family-sustaining jobs for workers, and to cut down inefficiencies. - U.S. Rep. Nolan
Bob Ryan, Rapid Response Coordinator for United Steelworkers (USW) District 11 also spoke to the gathering saying, “Repairing our infrastructure will create good, union jobs making the steel to rebuild bridges and rails and the concrete that will be poured to repair our roads, and building the systems used to generate renewable energy, like wind turbines and solar panels. And, it will help our environment.”
In addition to the infrastructure focus, the group discussed the need to make Minnesota’s industry more energy efficient, highlighting a new law that passed this year that will allow the Department of Commerce to provide low-interest loans to companies, hospitals, and other large energy users to cut their energy waste. Rep. Metsa championed the law in the legislature and Ryan said of it, “this is a good start toward improving energy efficiency for large energy users and we should build on this program to implement other strategies to help companies remain competitive by reducing energy waste.”
Earlier this year, the BlueGreen Alliance released recommendations for policy changes and executive actions to spur industrial energy efficiency efforts in the state. Competing to Win: Spurring Industrial Energy Efficiency in Minnesota summarized the benefits of increasing industrial energy efficiency, quantified the opportunity for the state of Minnesota, identified the barriers preventing projects from being installed, and issued a series of recommendations to address these barriers.
All in all, it was a fine event at the local city hall where solar panels from a local manufacturer help power the facility and wind turbines stand majestically on a ridge overlooking the small community. We thank Congressman Nolan, Rep. Metsa, and the union members who joined us to show their support for a more prosperous and efficient economy.