A little-discussed but influential Iron Range board has a new leader


The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

Yes, it sounds very bureaucratic and official, and not likely something you'd want to read about.

But here's the thing: It plays a pretty prominent role in the economy of the Iron Range, funneling taxes paid by the mining companies back into the region's development – from building a new fire station, to funding big business projects, the Duluth News Tribune says.

Here's a look at what the IRRRB (as it's usually referred to) is, and why it matters that a new leader was just picked for it.

The new commissioner

On Wednesday, Gov. Mark Dayton announced his pick for the commissioner of the IRRRB: Mark Phillips.

He's a native of the Iron Range who for decades has jumped back and forth between public government gigs and private jobs. He's currently an executive at Kraus-Anderson Construction Company, and served as commissioner for the state's economic and employment department just a few years ago.

He replaces Tony Sertich, who left to run a foundation in Duluth.

Why should I care?

Phillips will be in charge of a board that has significant influence in the northeastearn part of the state.

The board (which has been around since 1941) has an annual budget of $40 million, and is made up of 55 employees, MinnPost says. It gets money for projects from mining companies, which pay an iron ore production tax instead of property taxes, northern Minnesota writer Aaron Brown explains.

Much of that tax that's collected goes back to the IRRRB for it to make investments, and help promote jobs and economic growth in the region. Here are some examples of projects.

The Star Tribune describes the board as having "extraordinary autonomy for a state agency" – meaning it can sort of do what it wants, without much interference from the state government.

Where does all this money go?

The IRRRB uses the tax revenue it gets to fund economic projects in the area, such as demolishing old properties, constructing city service buildings or helping pay for major business projects.

That money only goes to projects within a certain region – meaning the revenue is created locally from the mines, and theoretically spent locally to benefit those people.

Here are the areas the IRRRB serves:

Brown has covered the IRRRB frequently.

Last year, he said the board has had some "notable, expensive" flops, and oftentimes is used to cover up the mistakes of local communities that need a quick bail out.

That said, the board does ensure the money from the mines is spent on the people that did the mining, he said, and plays a significant role in constructing and maintaining public works buildings.

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