Grand Rapids outlier in Minnesota unemployment

Horse logging and small-scale equipment demo, Grand Rapids MN

Horse logging in Grand Rapids is one method used to harvest timber in Itasca County. Nearly 600 logging and manufacturing jobs have been lost in the area since 2002. Photo by Eli Sagot via Flickr

Unemployment in Minnesota hovers around 6.6 percent, but Grand Rapids has a rate that nearly doubles that. The 12.3 percent unemployment rate is rooted in a steady decline of manufacturing and forestry jobs that have continued to leave the area since 2002.

A contributing factor to the high unemployment is the desirable quality of life.

“People want to live here,” Jeff Borling, Director of Itasca Business Development tells the Northland News Center. “If they lose their jobs, they aren’t necessarily going to pick up and leave their homes. And more over, their home is usually on a lake.”

And for others, like Cher Wedl, the downturn and lack of jobs led her to retire early.

“I’ve been looking, there just isn’t anything,” Wedl tells Northland News. “By losing my job I’m losing my health insurance, it forced me to go into a retirement earlier, and take my social security earlier than I normally would have just to make ends meet.”

Itasca County is slightly better off than the city of Grand Rapids in terms of unemployment but at 9.6 percent is still significantly higher than the state average.

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Debate

MPR’s Insight Now continues the debate around this question: Should government get out of a function if the private sector can perform that service or make that product?

Our two debaters are getting into the nuts and bolts of this debate. Peter Nelson from the Center of the American Experiment says privatization isn’t just a “standoff between government and private enterprise. It’s a question of when the mechanisms of private oversight, especially competition, can enhance public oversight.”

Dane Smith of Growth and Justice, points to the transformation of the country through the New Deal and adds: “The result, by the 1950s, was not a howling socialist wasteland, but a stronger and more competitive private-sector than ever before.

This two debaters are here to share with you…and also to hear what you have to say. Come on in to the debate all this week and share your insights.

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