SOAR Conferees Hear Of Similarities To Minnesota

Dec 10, 2013

A former Minnesota lawmaker and his father told a gathering in Appalachia that the future of the coal industry may lie in cooperation and innovation.

Former Minnesota lawmaker Tony Sertich and former community college president Joe Sertich said their state's response to a collapse in mining jobs in their iron-ore region 30 years ago may provide ideas for eastern Kentucky, which has suffered 6,000 coal layoffs in the last couple of years.

About 1,700 people registered to attend the Shaping Our Appalachian Region conference on Monday. Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of the 5th District and Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear set up the summit to try to find ways to diversify eastern Kentucky's economy.

The Sertiches told the crowd that in Minnesota a regional board provided public works jobs, invested in tourism projects and provided incentives to manufacturing and mining companies, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

Tony Sertich, who now heads the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, and Joe Sertich, now a consultant and business owner, said planners brought better coordination to community colleges in the region, put more focus on technical education and training, and started an engineering program.

Tony Sertich said Minnesota's efforts have been successful, with the region's unemployment rate about 6 percent. There also has been nearly $500 million in public and private investment in the region since 2012, projected to create more than 4,100 jobs.