Iron Range roots:
Iron Range roots:
Born and raised in Chisholm, MN
How has your Iron Range upbringing influenced your life and career?
First, if it weren’t for mining, I definitely would not be here today, doing well in Duluth, with a wonderful Hibbing born wife, and new, happy, healthy, baby girl. Mining gave my grandfather a job for 22 years after WWII. It provided a financial backdrop so he could get his engineering degree at Michigan Tech. It supported the economy, businesses, shops, tourism etc. that gave us good schools, and excellent teachers growing up.
But I also consider an Iron Range upbringing to be the foundation for a good person’s character. The culture on the Range teaches work ethic, humility, resilience and above all, a simple but important life credo, to be a good person. And when you don’t adhere to those qualities, someone lets you know, quite unapologetically. “Rangers” are taught to be tough, resilient, and that hard work can overcome any obstacle.
My father, who was raised by Chet Tomassoni, a 22-year Hanna Mining engineer, gave me a quote before I left for college on a note pad that I’ve always kept. Its from Vince Lombardi, and although he was a Packer, he had a similar Ranger mentality, that quote, “It isn’t whether you get knocked down, its if you get back up.” When you focus on working hard and being humble, you always get up. In college it would be long days, working out, going to practice, and still studying hard enough to get that 4.0 GPA. Work ethic above all kept it simple. And when I was coming to my senior year, that Range humility and honest assessment told me that I was a mediocre DIII hockey player with a 3.9 GPA, it was time to hang up the skates and use my brain.
Law School was an academic experience like no other for me. The amount of work required made undergrad feel like middle school. I got knocked down, so I remembered that Iron Range friend, uncle, family friend, teacher, unapologetically telling me to just “fix it”. So I did, I put work ethic back on track and finished my last four semesters getting either a 3.9 or 4.0. I got back up. It reminded me not only of that quote, but of a memorable teaching that I imagine most Iron Range kids get at sometime, which is “Do it right or it’s done wrong.” I was about 12 years old when I just spent the day shoveling the walk around the house and blowing out the driveway from what must have been (or felt like) an 18” snowstorm, when the snowplow went by and created a 3-foot, ice chunked berm at the end of our walkway, just minutes after I had got in the house and took off my snow pants. My father sent me back out, and when I only shoveled a path wide enough for a person to walk by, I was told simply that I wasn’t coming back in until that path was as wide as the walkway and it was “done right.” My father wasn’t a miner, but he was raised by one. He was beholden to miners his whole career and spent his career doing everything he could to protect their livelihoods. All our friends and family were either involved directly or indirectly in mining, and the hard work, no excuses mentality ran deep in our culture.
On the Range, you also get a large dose of personal interaction. Small towns breed close relationships and a sense of friendliness that helps all us Range kids in our professional lives. If this article expanded to the Twin Cities, you’d find many examples of that as well. When I joined a 400-lawyer firm as a young lawyer, I had no idea what I was getting into. But stuck to those same foundations.
The Fryberger firm gave me an opportunity and Enbridge then opened its doors. I have a great team here at Enbridge, my two closest bosses, Jim Watts and Lisa Wilson are both born Duluthian’s with some of the same values us Iron Rangers have and they are great to work for. So going forward, I just plan on sticking with that foundation, work hard, be humble, stay resilient and if (inevitably) I get knocked down, get back up.
How does mining benefit your company/organization?
Steel builds the pipelines we put in the ground. The residual economy built in this area from International Falls to Rochester has been benefited from mining. The infrastructure in this state, not only uses steel, but creates jobs to install it. Duluth’s harbor and this town’s economy was saved by the ore shipping industry, which created an economic foothold allowing the town to not fall into an economic black hole. All that residual economic activity matters, it creates a snowball effect that supports many industries. Miners come to Duluth to shop, they bring their kids here for sports tournaments. You can get pretty far down the line. The mining opposition here in Duluth somehow turns a blind eye when they see the ships coming in and out of the harbor. Put simply, those aren’t cruise ships helping sustain this economy. And a strong economy creates better schools, draws talent to colleges and universities, and makes Duluth a better place to live, which in turn, draws talent to our company.
Also, the state’s ability to provide economic stimulus funding is greatly supported by mining. People south of Meadowlands tend to forget all the economic stimulus mining tax money provided for this state. Take a look at our gorgeous state capitol, built from mining tax dollars. The jobs it created, that supported the St. Paul business community. I’m sure the list could go on.
And to show how far down the line the economic benefit goes. To get me safely back and forth to work every day, I still trust Chisholm Tire and Auto with my tires, always honest and best Perko can find. His shop still exists because of the mining economy.