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Large tract of trees and soil are burned in the Pagami Lake fire near Forest Center, Minn. Thursday Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011.

Bob King, Duluth News-Tribune

Letter of the Day (Sept. 11): Ely's economy

  • September 10, 2013 - 9:53 PM

I read Bill Forsberg Sr’s. Sept. 7 response (“Ely tourism’s doing just fine, thank you”) to my Sept. 1 commentary (“You think you know Ely’s needs?”) regarding outsiders, who, for their own personal vacation benefit, try to influence Ely to never change or grow, currently with respect to mining.

Bill laid out a bunch of facts and numbers produced by several state agencies and including broad areas of the state, not just the Ely region. One such statistic was that 2011 was a great year in tourism for Ely.

It appears that Bill omitted one important detail not explained by the figures alone. The 2011 Pagami Creek fire — which burned 10 percent of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness down to the rocks — resulted in 600-plus firefighters staying in and around Ely for several weeks.

So, yes, 2011 was a great year for several tourism operations, but not because of actual tourism. Other figures Bill provides include Pine County, which includes the Grand Casino at Hinckley. So, yes, tourism is doing just fine when you look at the dazzling numbers. The empty streets of Ely clearly say otherwise.

The main point of my commentary was that while tourism operators can and will carry on despite Ely’s economic woes, without a year-round job base, particularly from October through May, Ely will continue to crumble. Ultimately, so will our perfectly fine tourism businesses.

Joe Baltich, Ely, Minn.

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