We all have a lot to be thankful for as we begin the New Year. 2013 saw many changes for the better – more Minnesotan’s employed, our K-12 education system fully repaid, and our state reserves with a projected surplus. Much can happen in a year, and we saw that first hand living in Minnesota. So what can the State Legislature do this year to keep moving in a positive direction? Two words – capital investment.
During the 2014 legislative session the Capital Investment Committee will likely pass a significant bonding bill. This bill will be in the hundreds of millions; perhaps even close to $1 billion. I support capital investment in our public assets. Roads, bridges, theaters, stadiums – and even publicly-owned facilities like Spirit Mountain in Duluth all help make Minnesota a wonderful place to live. Yet all these places are expensive to maintain and repair.
Public investments have an incredible scope. They can help a city build the infrastructure to deliver clean water to its residents, allow the Department of Natural Resources to build boat landings and camping spots, and give a place like Spirit Mountain the opportunity to be more environmentally friendly. If funded with capital investment dollars, Spirit Mountain will construct an underground pipe system in order to transport water from a nearby renewable water source in order to make it’s snow. Currently Spirit Mountain pipes in chlorinated city water to make snow, and come spring that treated snow melts and runs directly into the St. Louis River. The ski and recreation area is requesting $3.4 million in bonding funds to make this important investment in water infrastructure.
Currently, Spirit Mountain pays $155,000 a year for treated city water. The new water piping system would not only allow it to double its snowmaking capacity, and be fully open for the winter season in roughly half the time, but also significantly reduce expenses. Each year this destination recreation center generates $37 million in annual regional economic impact. It’s a great example of how a small investment can make a big difference in a regional Minnesota economy.
We have clear examples of how capital investment in our public assets benefits all people. Minnesota’s economy is back up and running; now is the time for strategic renewal in the things that make our state great.