Brooks is an investigative reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune.
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It's easy to buy a new outfit online. It's often cheaper, too. Convenience has consequences. Later this year, 134 people will lose their jobs when Younkers closes at the Miller Hill Mall in Duluth. Bankrupt parent company Bon-Ton Stores is facing liquidation after no buyer came forward to save the retail chain. "We are disappointed by this outcome," CEO Bill Tracy said in a statement. Many customers were disappointed to learn they will lose a longtime shopping destination. Count Wendy Heavirland among them.
The Number: $9,068
If a trade war is coming, Minnesota will be a battlefield. Since President Donald Trump announced tariffs on select imports of steel and aluminum last month, cheers and jeers have reverberated around the state. As proposed, the Iron Range will directly benefit from increased steel production and prices. Meanwhile, many farmers will take a direct hit to their bottom line.
The Number: 70.2 percent That was Minnesota's workforce participation rate in February, according to DEED — the second-highest in the country after North Dakota, because you just work from 5 years old until you die in North Dakota (I'm from there, I should know). Because the numbers say the workforce will be shrinking in coming years — just as employers are in full-on hiring mode — keeping that participation rate up will mean better economic growth and presumably better lives for everyone as a result. That's the economic Kool-Aid we've been sold, anyway.
Whether it's good policy or good timing, Minnesota appears to be ridding the roads of uninsured drivers. The number of people charged with not carrying auto insurance has dropped by a third in the past five years, according to state court records. In St. Louis County, no-insurance cases have dropped by 28 percent since 2013. That could be due to a new law requiring drivers to show proof of insurance when they register or re-register vehicles. Before 2016, just a signature would suffice.
Duluth will lose its Younkers, and 134 people will lose their jobs — if no one rescues parent company Bon-Ton Stores Inc. from bankruptcy. "Bon-Ton is in active discussions with an investor group to acquire the company in a court-supervised sale process," the company said in a statement Friday. "We are encouraged by the interest in Bon-Ton, and we hope that jobs will be preserved through a sale process."
Fewer people are expected to carry health insurance now that there will be no federal requirement to have it. But hospitals will still be required to provide emergency care to everyone who needs it. That will mean more charity care and unpaid bills, or uncompensated care, for hospitals. So what happens next? The News Tribune asked experts that question for a story you can read in full here: (LINK) Here's a summary of what we learned:
The Number: $302,400 That's how much Ikonics Corp. CEO Bill Ulland made in total compensation last year, according to SEC filings. That reflects a 3 percent salary raise and a slight increase in deferred compensation over 2016. And as long as we're digging through proxy statements, let it also be known that Joseph R. Nerges is the largest sole shareholder of the company, owning 19 percent of outstanding shares. The only other thing I quickly found out about Nerges is that he's been consistently selling Ikonics stock since May last year.
Neel Kashkari has been president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank since 2016 and has become known as an outspoken monetary policymaker willing to weigh in, often via Twitter , on everything from cryptocurrencies to employment data to the Federal Reserve's ongoing rate increases — which he has repeatedly voted against.
Just when it looks like the region's labor market is tapped out, another 2,000 people clock in. Across St. Louis, Carlton and Douglas counties — the Duluth metro area — more than 140,000 people were picking up paychecks in February. That's the highest number the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has recorded since 1990. The labor force, those working and looking for work, hit a new high as well at 148,000.