This blog was writen by Kathleen Schuler, Healthy Kids And Families Program Director at Conservation Minnesota and Co-Director of Healthy Legacy. I thought the information was worth sharing.
The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) recently approved a $21.2 million loan to Segetis, a green chemistry company, to build a $106 million plant in Hoyt Lakes, MN. This investment will pay off in new economic development, including new jobs in an area of the state sorely in need of such a boost.
Segetis is a Golden Valley based company that makes bio-based alternatives to petrochemicals to meet a variety of consumer product needs. They produce levulinic acid, made from corn sugars, which can be used in a variety of applications, including polymers, polyols, plasticizers, surfactants and formulation aids. Segetis technologies employ inherently safer chemistry to protect human health and our environment throughout the product life cycle. If you have purchased products made by Seventh Generation or Method, you likely could be using chemicals made by Segetis.
This new plant will enable Segetis to ramp up manufacturing capacity and grow their company, which will benefit the growing number of consumers interested in less toxic cleaning and personal care products. The choice to locate their new plant in Northern Minnesota’s forest rich region will facilitate Segetis’ transition to forest products feedstock by 2018. Once open in 2015, the plant is expected to have a direct economic impact of $55 million per year on the region and will initially create 55 new jobs and support 545 jobs in related industries, according to a study by the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality. These new living-wage jobs will range from warehouse workers and support staff, earning $33,000 to $45,000 a year, while management jobs will pay $80,000-130,000 a year. (finance-commerce.com/2014/04/segetis-to-build-105-million-plant-in-hoyt-lakes/)
“Segetis is on the leading edge of the biochemical economy and will add value to our timber and forest products economy,” said IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich. “This innovative company’s presence in our region will help position the Iron Range as a national leader in the biochemical economy.”
New Jobs without the Risk
The new Segetis plant will benefit Northeast Minnesota through economic development and new jobs. It will provide additional environmental and health benefits through creating safer chemicals and safer products for consumers, workers and the broader community. In contrast, proposals to create jobs through an industry that’s new to Minnesota, known as sulfide mining carry risks to the environment and to human health. This new type of mining in Minnesota is vastly different from taconite mining we are familiar with and carries new risks. For example, PolyMet projects that their proposal would create 300 to 360 jobs for the 20 year life of the mine. The 2009 draft Environmental Impact Statement for PolyMet stated that 25% of these jobs would go to local people, and the rest would go to long-distance commuters or relocated workers. That means that somewhere around 90 local residents might be employed at PolyMet if it opened. (MiningTruth.org) And these jobs come at significant costs to our state, including mercury pollution to our waters, destruction of moose and lynx habitat, risks to Minnesota taxpayers, damage to wild rice waters and production, wetland devastation, increased carbon dioxide emissions and at least 500 years of treating pollution to our waters. In addition, as of yet, no health impact assessment has been done to determine the extent of risks to human health from exposure to mercury, asbestos-like fibers and increased vehicle traffic. (PolymetProblems.com)
While we all support job growth throughout Northeast Minnesota, policymakers and citizens should look long and hard at the type of jobs we create and the costs or benefits all of us will be seeing down the road. We applaud the IRRRB’s work to bring Segetis to Northeast Minnesota. This innovative company will provide sustainable, long-term, living wage jobs while not risking our health.