Map of the Iron Range from the Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education

Map of the Iron Range from the Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education

The Iron Range is a region in Northern Minnesota, so named because of its high concentration of mineral deposits. The area has been largely focused on mining and logging, and most of the jobs and commerce are connected to that. As the mining industry faces challenges and resources are depleted, the Iron Range is looking to diversify its economy, as so many boom towns are.

That's where Strong Towns comes in.

From May 16-19, Chuck Marohn and Jason Schaefer, will travel the length of the Iron Range to discuss why these communities are struggling financially and how to fix that. The answers lie in the way we have developed; the financial productivity of our places.

The standard approach to economic growth—which often involves injecting outside funds in the hopes of catalyzing development—is not working and has left the Iron Range with financial challenges and unemployment. We're calling this series of events, the Curbside Chat+.

Throughout Chuck and Jason's travels in the Iron Range, they'll highlight creative ways to build better places and create more job opportunities, all while utilizing the assets that already exist in the community. The entire community is invited to attend this series of public events and join in the conversation. In addition to public Curbside Chats in the evenings, walking tours, meetings with local leadership and other events will also be included during this week.

Besides this on-the-ground conversation in the Iron Range, Strong Towns will also share a collection of stories from small business owners and community leaders in the area on our website during May 16-19. You'll hear from a young man who is opening a "makerspace" in his town to create new job and training opportunities, a woman who purchased a downtown mixed-use building to her revitalize her main street, a Native American city councilor who is helping to encourage women in leadership, and many others. 

The Iron Range is a fascinating region that we're excited to partner with and to showcase this May. It will be the first in our Curbside Chat+ series and we hope it's a model we can use in other communities soon.

This series of events is sponsored by the Blandin Foundation and the IRRRB.

(Top photo by Peter Rood)