Despite political spotlight, Iron Range town still waiting for economic spark – by Katie Galioto (Minneapolis Star Tribune – October 26, 2020)

HOYT LAKES, MINN. – When Donald Trump became president and promised an extraordinary economic resurgence for Minnesota’s Iron Range, this small town of 2,000 seemed poised for a renaissance.

But four years later, Hoyt Lakes is more or less the same. The northeastern Minnesota city that’s home to the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine hasn’t gained or lost many jobs since Trump took office. Unemployment remains higher than the state average, while median household income is much lower than in other parts of Minnesota.

Presidential candidates thrust the Iron Range into the national spotlight this election cycle, claiming credit for its recent successes and blaming others for its struggles.

Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to hold a rally Monday in Hibbing, a hub of the region that’s become a microcosm of the partisan battle over the country’s blue-collar voters who helped secure Trump’s victory in 2016 after years of supporting Democrats.

The Range got its name from the iron deposits that lie north and west of Duluth. A century of mining and two World Wars depleted the higher-quality iron ore, prompting a switch to taconite, a lower-grade form of the natural resource that is processed and used to make steel.

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