The Ranger - April 16

department of iron range resources and rehabilitation

The Ranger 

April 16, 2020

Delta Air Lines relocates to old MIB school to achieve social distancing for employees

Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines is temporarily relocating 150 of the 450 employees from its Chisholm Customer Care Center into the former Mountain Iron-Buhl school building in order to meet social distancing standards recommended by the CDC for workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation is supporting the emergency relocation with a grant to Independent School District 712 to help pay for the internal renovations to the vacant school building.

The global pandemic has spread to over 100 countries, and governments around the world have implemented strict travel restrictions that have drastically affected the airline industry. Delta has seen a significantly heightened demand for its experienced customer service agents during the unprecedented public health crisis.  

Delta Air Lines

“We put safety first as our Iron Range specialists immediately rose to the challenge,” said Doug Witt, engagement center director at The Chisholm Center. “And we appreciate this community partnership that has resulted in our new satellite office, where we will continue to serve our customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Mountain Iron facility has ample parking, existing broadband and a wide-open gymnasium area adjacent to two large classrooms. Delta has made the space feel like home with signage, a breakroom as well as configuring workstations to provide six-foot spacing between specialists.

Delta Air Lines

ISD 712 is charging Delta a small utilities usage lease instead of a traditional market rate lease. The school board expedited the approval process in order to make the space available to Delta. The district quickly offered its building and the freedom to remodel in any way needed to accommodate Delta’s immediate needs related to the global pandemic. 

“The relocation enables a seamless transition for these Delta employees during this unprecedented time,” said Mark Phillips, Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation commissioner. “Delta is a longstanding employer on the Iron Range, and our agency was eager to help them adjust their operations to meet increased space guidelines between employees and workstations. Our region’s businesses and communities will persevere together through these challenging times, and our agency is committed to helping them financially and logistically.”

Broadband and technology allow Hibbing area senior citizens to “age in place”

Echo Show

Access North Center for Independent Living equipped the homes of about 12 senior citizens with new technology that allows them to remain in their homes longer, have added safety features, and be socially connected to family and friends. The outreach was part of Blandin Foundation’s broadband initiative and funded in part by Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation.

For seniors whose failing vision makes it difficult to see the number buttons on a telephone, Echo Show (pictured above) and Alexa gives them voice command capability to dial contacts for them. They can command Alexa to call their health care provider or family member, and Echo Show dials the contact programmed in their phone. With Echo Spot seniors can live video chat with family and friends across the world. Alexa and Alexa Fire allows seniors to command their TVs to turn on or off, adjust the volume and change channels.

Philips Hue with Alexa

Seniors have also been provided Phillips Hue lighting that is controlled by Alexa voice command (pictured). It allows them to safely turn on and off lights using their voice without physically getting up in the dark and risking a trip or fall. Other devices such as a Nest thermostat (pictured below) and Ring doorbell have added extra security and safety in homes. Seniors can control temperature settings in their homes and see on their phone who is at their door before opening it.

“Most seniors prefer to remain in their homes as long as possible and want to avoid unnecessary or premature nursing home placement,” said Don Brunette, Access North executive director. “We used the broadband grant money to provide and install products, services and conveniences to allow them to do so. Some homes received new routers to make their broadband connectivity more robust to support the new devices.”


Access North has a long-term loan library that is stocked with a multitude of technology devices to enhance people’s quality of life and independence in their homes. The equipment may be checked out by seniors and disabled people of any age.

Founded in 1985, Access North serves 10 counties in northeastern Minnesota. Its Hibbing office partnered with Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce and Blandin on the senior technology initiative. The Blandin broadband program aims to advance broadband in northeastern Minnesota rural communities and develop high speed internet that is critical to economic development, education, healthcare and quality of life. Spurring access to broadband and increasing the number and sophistication of users across the region can help future developments and investments into broadband.

“The grant allowed us to meet the needs of seniors in order for them to remain in their homes. Everyone in our society is facing these same needs right now during the pandemic and Shelter in Place order,” said Brunette. “We see now more than ever how robust broadband and technology enable our culture and all members to connect to work, school, family and friends.”

Unemployment benefits for northeastern Minnesotans impacted by COVID-19

Unemployment Benefits

The CARES Act was passed by Congress and signed into law late last month. It provides $600/week additional compensation for people receiving unemployment benefits. Soon after, Gov. Tim Walz signed into law Executive Order 20-29 which helped Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to quickly approve thousands of Minnesotans who have applied and are waiting for their benefits. Minnesota was one of the first states in the nation to authorize the $600 weekly payments.

The CARES Act also included a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for eligible applicants, called the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). This program has been fully implemented in Minnesota. Individuals who have exhausted their unemployment benefits and believe they are eligible for extended benefits under the PEUC may login to their online account at for additional details.

DEED is also working to implement the third CARES Act program and make it available to Minnesotans in need. It is a new benefit program for some independent contractors, self-employed people, gig-workers and other who are unemployed as a result of COVID-19 and who would not normally be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Visit the DEED website for more details and keep checking for information.

Iron Range restaurant “to go” website launched during COVID-19

Good to Go Logo

A new website was launched to promote Iron Range restaurants that are offering takeout, curbside pick-up or delivery during the COVID-19 outbreak. Good to Go! Iron Range Restaurants is located at and aims to help local restaurants that are struggling during the pandemic. The site also provides Iron Range residents access to takeout food.

The website was developed by W.A. Fisher Co. of Virginia, Minn. and funded by Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. United Way of Northeastern Minnesota suggested the original concept, and the website listings were compiled by Mesabi Daily News and local chambers of commerce.

Future website plans include online ordering capabilities for local restaurants that wish to expand their takeout and delivery services. Interested restaurant owners and managers can click here for more information.  

Take a one-minute speed test to help our region improve broadband


To determine the rural broadband connectivity level in St. Louis County, people may take a simple one-minute speed test. Click on the link and allow the test to run while at home from any mobile device or PC. Share the link with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and students, and encourage them to also run the speed test.

The test must be taken from home, and no personal information will be collected. People who currently do not have a broadband connection may also click on the link and enter their home address. Their participation will help provide accurate and thorough information needed in the mapping of St Louis County broadband.

The speed test is being launched at a time when students are learning from home, adults and parents are working from home, and all Minnesotans are being asked to shelter in place and stay at home.

“This is the absolute best time for us to truly find out what level of broadband we have in St. Louis County. Broadband use is likely at an all-time high,” said Steve Giorgi, Range Association of Municipalities & Schools (RAMS) director. “The test will provide ground truth data related to where service is weak and needs improvement, and in particular what rural areas, towns and neighborhoods have slower service.”

The test is sponsored by RAMS in partnership with St. Louis County. The county-wide results will be measured over the next several months by GEO Partners, LLC. When completed, it will provide statistically validated data that can be used to help advance future broadband projects and secure federal and state broadband funding.

The Ranger is a publication of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. Our mission is to invest resources to foster vibrant growth and economic prosperity in northeastern Minnesota.