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Regent's View: Glensheen fuels St. Louis County economy in grand way

2013 News Tribune file photo / Mary Streich of Billings, Montana uses her cell phone to take a picture in the main entryway of Glensheen Mansion during a tour in July 2013.

Glensheen is much more than just a historic home in Duluth. Glensheen brings alive the rich history of Minnesota's iron-mining industry and the establishment of the Mesabi Iron Range and U.S. Steel. It also emphasizes the beauty and power of Lake Superior, is a marvel of 20th-century craftsmanship, and holds the history and mysteries of the storied Congdon family.

Most Minnesotans know the grand history of Glensheen, which is now operated by the University of Minnesota. What is less known is that Glensheen is a powerful economic driver for the region. In fact, a national research firm recently concluded that its total economic impact is $7.5 million a year.

Last year, more than 140,000 people visited Glensheen, and 95 percent of the visitors traveled from more than 50 miles away. It's estimated that nearly half of those out-of-town visitors come to St. Louis County for the primary reason of visiting Glensheen. And while they're here, they spend money that goes directly into the local economy. Each visitor spends an estimated average of $139 during their visit on hotel rooms, dining, shopping, and entertainment.

Glensheen also directly supports jobs in the region. In addition to Glensheen's 120 employees (both full-time staff and student employees), local companies like special-events catering, landscaping, construction, and security firms serve the home. And then there are those employed by the restaurants, hotels, attractions, and local shops that Glensheen visitors frequent.

In short, Glensheen keeps St. Louis County strong.

Now it's our job to keep Glensheen strong.

Built 110 years ago, Glensheen is showing its age. Deteriorating walls, inadequate accessibility, crumbling garden terraces, bowed and buckling masonry, a faulty boiler, and aging internal infrastructure threaten its long-term stability.

If Glensheen continues to crumble, so will its economic impact to the region. That's why we at the University of Minnesota are asking the Legislature to invest in Glensheen. With state support, we can make repairs that will keep Glensheen viable and vibrant for generations to come. In turn, Glensheen will continue its great economic impact for the benefit of St. Louis County and the state of Minnesota.

Michael Hsu

Michael D. Hsu of Blaine, Minn., represents Congressional District 6 on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. He wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.

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