Duluth International Airport will name its gleaming new airport terminal after the man who helped build it: the late Congressman Jim Oberstar.
The decision settles a friendly tug-of-war between Duluth and Hibbing over which of their brand-new terminals should be named in Oberstar's honor. Working with the Oberstar family, the airport authorities announced Friday that Duluth's terminal will bear the Oberstar name, while the Range Regional Airport -- the airport closest to his hometown of Chisholm -- will host a display celebrating the life and legacy of Minnesota's longest-serving congressman.
"Congressman Oberstar was a champion of aviation in our region," Duluth Airport Authority Executive Director Tom Werner said in a statement Friday. "It’s through his leadership and vision that we have such a vibrant aviation sector at the Duluth International Airport today.”
Oberstar, the longtime chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, steered millions of dollars for road, bridge, bike path and transit project back to his home state and his home district -- including crucial funding for the $78 million Duluth terminal project during his final years in Congress.
"Congressman Oberstar worked tirelessly to improve transportation infrastructure throughout our country," Peter Makowski, a former Oberstar aide, said in a statement Friday. "His goal was to improve the safety for everyone who used our highways, railroads, seaports and airports. He was very proud of his work in these critical areas and was particularly mindful of the projects in the Eighth Congressional District. It is fitting that the Duluth International Airport Terminal be named in his honor.”
Oberstar, who lost his bid for a 19th term in 2010, died in his sleep last May. He was 79.
In Hibbing, where the new terminal is still under construction, plans are underway for a display of photos and stories tracing Oberstar's life and his 36 years in Congress. Range Regional Airport Authority Executive Director Shaun Germolus said the two airports were never in competition for the name, but the fact that both sought naming rights was "a real testament to who he was and what he could accomplish."
Renaming the Duluth terminal will require additional private donations, which are being organized by the Monaco Air Foundation. The Oberstar family will work with city officials and community leaders to determine how the naming project will look, what it will cost and when it will be unveiled to the public. The renaming is expected to happen later in 2015.
The new passenger terminal at the Range Regional Airport, which is scheduled to open in December, will remain nameless.
Rochester planners breathed a sigh of relief Thursday as the State Legislature fixed $6 billion worth of fuzzy language in the legislation that greenlighted the massive Destination Medical Center project.
The fix sailed through the House last week and passed the Senate unanimously today as part of a tax conformity bill that brings other quirks in the Minnesota tax code in line with new federal tax breaks.
It also clears up language in the 2013 legislation that committed the state to steer half a billion in tax breaks to downtown Rochester's massive $6 billion redevelopment project. A mistaken multiplier would have blocked the project from access to the full tax breaks until $12 billion in private investment had gone into the project — double the $6 billion lawmakers had intended.
A relieved Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede issued a joint statement with Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, who chairs the board that oversees the project.
“The Destination Medical Center Corporation Board and City of Rochester would like to express our appreciation to Minnesota legislators for quickly addressing the Destination Medical Center (DMC) financing technical fix," the Thursday statement said. "The speed with which this legislation has moved through the House and Senate with bipartisan support is a testament to the belief in the DMC vision, and its ability to generate economic growth and jobs for all of Minnesota. This technical fix removes a cloud of uncertainty at a critical juncture for this ambitious initiative.
“Destination Medical Center represents the largest economic development opportunity in Minnesota and will significantly expand Rochester and Minnesota’s economic base with new businesses, thousands of news jobs and millions of dollars in additional tax revenue. We are excited to advance our vision of Minnesota as a truly global destination for healing and wellness.”
Mayo Clinic had lobbied hard for state support for the project, warning that it will be hard to recruit top talent to snowy Minnesota without massive investments in the clinic itself and the community it calls home.
Mayo has pledged $3.5 billion of its own money to the project, and promised to bring in another $2 billion in private investment to turn Rochester into a destination in its own right, full of gleaming new shops, restaurants, hotels and cultural amenities designed to attract patients, doctors alike.