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Helping Our Towns Sustainably Grow & Prosper

I love the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It’s why I moved to Minnesota to make my career over 40 years ago. I love Ely. It’s why I live here. And I know the BWCA and Ely are stronger together. Keeping each healthy and thriving is crucial to the other. This conviction has informed my years as a member of the board of directors of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW), a non-profit organization based in Ely, MN, devoted to protecting the wilderness and public lands of NE Minnesota, particularly the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

So with the help of similarly-minded friends and colleagues with Ely roots, NMW formed an Economic and Community Development Task Force dedicated to the exploration and, where appropriate, implementation of ways for NMW to be impactful at the intersection of Ely and similar communities and the BWCA. If you see “Boundary Waters Connect”- that’s us, working to connect people and resources in our BWCA wilderness-edge communities.

Over the last five decades, Ely has built a diversified, sustainable economy around the BWCA and surrounding Superior National Forest. It’s weathered recessions, a pandemic, and swings in world markets that have crippled other NE MN communities. The recreational amenities of the BWCA\SNF attract tourism, outdoor industry, and importantly, residents. Research shows that rural communities with abundant recreational amenities fare far better than those without. More widely, our region depends on a diversified mix of healthcare, leisure and hospitality, public administration, and retail trade as primary economic drivers.

We’ve learned that the unparalleled quality of life available in wilderness edge communities is a magnet, not just for visitors, but for new residents as well. Quality of life and other characteristics of towns like those on the edge of the BWCA wilderness turn out to be more important than jobs in decisions to relocate. That’s not just for retirees, but for working age adults and their families as well.

These people bring with them existing jobs or create businesses and jobs for themselves and others. Some of Ely’s most successful niche, high quality manufacturing, service, and retail businesses began not with a job, but a desire to work where these individuals wanted to live, play, and raise a family.

We believe strongly in this place and its people as our most enduring and sustainable economic and community driver. So we dedicate ourselves primarily to activities intended to promote the recruitment of new residents, removing barriers to their entry, and maintaining a vibrant and welcoming community in which all may prosper.

We also believe these are goals we can all support, regardless of one’s views regarding the merits of copper nickel sulfide ore mining.

We hope you agree!

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