Boise Inc. announced it would terminate 265 jobs at its International Falls paper mill by October 2013. A local committee immediately went to work organizing a strategic response inviting local, state and federal elected officials, community leaders, and regional and local economic development folks to form a coordinated response effort. The mission: to leverage all available resources to help individuals and businesses impacted by this decision and to formulate a long-term vision and strategy for economic viability.
A four member Economic Response Team of elected government leaders from the City of International Falls and Koochiching County was formed and an open invitation broadly shared to invite other community leaders to step up and become members of three working teams focused on affected dislocated workers, affected businesses and new business development, and the preparation of a shared vision and long term strategy for economic diversification. A fourth working team focused on communication was also formed later after these major teams were established and working on the response. The Northspan Group Inc. a private non-profit regional consulting organization with extensive experience in dealing with similar dislocation events in Northeast Minnesota was engaged to further organize and facilitate a coordinated response under the direction and leadership of International Falls/Koochiching County Economic Response Team (ERT).
An economic dislocation of this magnitude in any rural area requires committed and sustained leadership, resources, community engagement and action to be responsive and make a significant difference. The following are ways the ERT has been leveraging political capital and local, regional, state and federal resources as the response begins to unfold.