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US (MN): Some raise concern over size of public investment in cannabis company on Iron Range

The decision to award a new cannabis company on the Iron Range millions in publicly-funded loans is raising questions among elected officials and industry stakeholders, who have concerns about the size of the investment and scope of the business plan.

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board on Tuesday signed off on the assistance for the HWY35 LLC project, which will transform an old lumber mill into a $67 million cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility run by founders who operated businesses in Missouri.

It received $10 million in a loan from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation agency; another $10 million loan from a Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development fund whose funds IRRRB directs; and $2 million in tax increment financing from the City of Grand Rapids.

The board, which is a panel of lawmakers that includes both Republicans and Democrats, voted five to three on the proposal, which states the company will generate 400 new jobs. Funding to the economic development agency focused on northeastern Minnesota comes from mining taxes. Some on the board celebrated the boost the cannabis business could bring to the region, while others were uneasy about giving the company.

Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, did not support giving the company assistance. He thinks approving funding at this stage is too soon since the Office of Cannabis Management tasked with oversight of the industry is not yet fully up and running and has not issued any business licenses yet. "We have a responsibility to the taxpayers of the taconite relief area in the Iron Range to spend those dollars prudently and in this case I didn't think we were being prudent," he told WCCO.


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