Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Transforming the Iron Range's resource-driven economy?

Those of you enjoying today's sunshine probably have me to thank. After however many days of gray, cloudy skies, I had an optometrist's appointment this morning. It was still cloudy on my way in. After the exam, when my eyes had been dilated to a fair-thee-well, I came out, wearing throw-away plastic sunshades, into bright blue skies and the bane of dilated eyes, sunshine. I've always had an impeccable sense of timing. Unfortunately, at this time of year, in Minnesota, even full, direct, mid-day sunshine carries little if any warmth. That starts to be noticeable in five or six weeks, about the third week of February, when we can start to feel it through the windshield of the car or truck.

Northern Minnesota: rocks and hard places
Northern Minnesota: rocks and hard places
Photo by J. Harrington

By the looks of thinks in and around Minnesota's Capital, it may not be until then before unemployed miners can begin to hope for some consideration from the legislature. The GOP Speaker of the House has been reported to be more interested in a longer term solution for the Range, rather than a simple extension of unemployment benefits. Frankly, I don't see those options as being mutually exclusive, probably another reason I'd no doubt be a terrible politician. Anyhow, the issue of longer term solutions intrigues me and feeds into my continuing fascination with bioregional economies and sustainable development. I'm currently reading a book by an English economist that actually shed some light on this issue.

The book mentions a study done several years ago by the international consulting firm, McKinsey, on Resource Revolution. A quick search on the internet took me to a summary, but from there we can go into details in a section entitled Reverse the curse: Maximizing the potential of resource-driven economies. Here's two excerpts:
"To date, resource-driven countries have tended to underperform those without significant resources: almost 80 percent of the former have a per-capita income below the global average. Since 1995, more than half of these countries have failed to match the average growth rate of all countries. Only one-third have maintained growth beyond the resource boom. Recent McKinsey research lays out a new model that could help countries capture the coming resource windfall.

"To capture that investment, these economies should reframe their economic strategies around three key imperatives: effectively developing their resource sector, capturing value from it, and transforming that value into long-term prosperity. The research explores best practices on six fronts: building the resource sector’s institutions and governance, developing infrastructure, ensuring robust fiscal policy and competitiveness, supporting local content, deciding how to spend resource windfalls wisely, and transforming resource wealth into broader economic development (exhibit)."
I don't think there's much question about the Iron Range underperforming the economy of the Twin Cities, which largely lacks commodity-type resources. We could discuss whether the Iron Range is still a "resource-driven" economy. But even better, I believe, maybe McKinsey's model could help the Range develop a diversified economy of living wage jobs without trashing the environment. The interesting thing about the exhibit is that Canada and Norway appear to be the only countries listed as excelling across all three imperatives. Minnesota, and the Iron Range, undoubtedly have connections that could and should be tapped to learn more about how the Iron Range's economy, and its contribution to Minnesota's economy, could be made more resilient, more sustainable and greener, by looking at best practices to our north and east (you know, "across the pond"). Is there time before the regular session for Speaker Daudt to squeeze in a quick junket research trip with Majority Leader Bakk?

Waiting for a Ride

By Gary Snyder 

Standing at the baggage passing time:
Austin Texas airport—my ride hasn’t come yet.
My former wife is making websites from her home,
one son’s seldom seen,
the other one and his wife have a boy and girl of their own.
My wife and stepdaughter are spending weekdays in town
so she can get to high school.
My mother ninety-six still lives alone and she’s in town too,
always gets her sanity back just barely in time.
My former former wife has become a unique poet;
most of my work,
such as it is             is done.
Full moon was October second this year,
I ate a mooncake, slept out on the deck
white light beaming through the black boughs of the pine
owl hoots and rattling antlers,
Castor and Pollux rising strong
—it’s good to know that the Pole Star drifts!
that even our present night sky slips away,
not that I’ll see it.
Or maybe I will, much later,
some far time walking the spirit path in the sky,
that long walk of spirits—where you fall right back into the
“narrow painful passageway of the Bardo”
squeeze your little skull
and there you are again

waiting for your ride

(October 5, 2001)
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