I’m what you call “rural by choice.” When I was 18, I couldn’t imagine ever moving back to small town Minnesota. Turns out it was one of the best decisions I have ever made! After getting my engineering degree, I had a great job opportunity and moved back to the area. I spent the next 10 years as a consulting engineer, working primarily with industrial and mining clients across North America. I recently shifted my career to small business consulting, which has been a great way to use my engineering background and business knowledge. Living in this area, I get to enjoy the amazing recreational opportunities that the Iron Range provides while having a meaningful career making a positive impact in my community. 

The Iron Range is uniquely positioned with abundant natural resources, which has led to over 100 years of iron mining in the region as well as a robust timber and paper industry. There are well paying jobs directly in these industries and supporting them as well. Whether that’s a technical position designing mine systems, delivering critical safety supplies to mines, or machining parts for the heavy equipment operating in our region, there are great jobs supporting safe and environmentally responsible natural resource businesses in our area.  

The skills people need to support our natural resource businesses have so many more applications, and small businesses have started and grown all across our region to take advantage of one of our best resources – our people. There are also great resources available to help current and aspiring entrepreneurs grow a successful business. Northland Small Business Development Center (SBDC) offers no-cost assistance to entrepreneurs looking to start, manage, or grow their business idea. It is so much fun to work with all these energetic people looking to build jobs and community in our region! 

In addition to the SBDC, there are so many other partners that are here to help businesses grow in our natural resource economy. One of these key partners is the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI). NRRI is a regional branch of the University of Minnesota focused on developing cutting edge solutions to challenges facing natural resource-based industries. They employ researchers in a wide variety of natural resource related areas that help businesses and entrepreneurs understand and capitalize on their ideas. NRRI also conducts studies on forest health and wildlife, water impacts and remediation, and innovative uses for industrial waste, to name a few. Their integrated, applied research is focused on the economy of the future. This technical expertise paired with responsive regional lenders, business technical assistance, and a well-trained labor force make the Iron Range a great place to start a natural resource focused business! 

Vicki Hagberg, Business Consultant (She/Her)
Northland Small Business Development Center