(GRAND RAPIDS, MINN)             In a normal year, resorts, hotels and restaurants in the Grand Rapids area are filled with customers and visitors that help keep the local businesses going.  The past year was clearly not normal but businesses in the Grand Rapids are were able find customers and visitors because of the Line 3 Replacement Project.  Thousands of workers started construction late last year that helped local businesses.  Now, as work is getting ready to restart, tourism experts say the pipeline project not only is continuing to help businesses recover from the pandemic – it is also creating a significant long term benefit.

“We definitely needed it,” said Megan Christianson, Executive Director of Visit Grand Rapids. “2020 was a really difficult year for us here. Having pipeline construction workers in town had a positive economic impact to us because we still have not gotten our group conferences, meetings, and conventions back and don’t expect that to come back until 2022.  It’s nice to have those pipeliners in town, staying at our lodging properties, eating at our restaurants, buying gas, buying bait on their off time.”  

The first phase of Line 3 construction started in December of 2020, just in time to help area businesses start recovering from the COVID-related economic challenges.  In the first four months of work, more than 5,000 people were working on the project across all 14-counties.  After a planned two-month pause to allow for seasonal weight restrictions to be lifted on local roads, crews are already returning to the area as work will fully restart in June to complete the project.

“They’re just coming back off of the road restrictions and the properties are excited to have the workers come back,”Christianson said. “Our places are busy at midweek, something that is hard anytime for hotels. People often think that hotels follow the peak season of your seasonality and your destination. It doesn’t. Hotels have a definite year round booking where resorts are very seasonal, and so this midweek clientele, having a consistent book of business is really really crucial to all of our businesses.”

The strong impact being seen at businesses in Grand Rapids and in other communities reflects what economic studies had predicted would happen as a result of construction work.  The Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics study estimated that that Line 3 will support 2,800 retail/hospitality sector jobs and 1,600 local supplier/manufacturer jobs. 

The study also shows indirect positive economic impacts will include more than $160 million in non-local worker spending on meals, lodging, and incidentals while working in the study area.  Christianson said the impact for Grand Rapids was immediate and significant.

“Business owners have been able to keep employees on longer and have been able to bring them back sooner,” Christianson said, “and that’s really beneficial to keep people off of unemployment. That influx of people coming into our community allows their employees to now be able to spend dollars in other places. There’s a total spin of money in, money out, and it’s all staying here locally, and we love that.”

After more than six years of review and four months of construction, Minnesotans strongly support the project and recognize its regional economic impact and importance.  A recent poll showed that a majority of Minnesotans not only support the decision to grant the project final permits, a strong majority also believe the project should be allowed to be completed.  Sixty percent say that Enbridge should have been given permission to build the Line 3 replacement pipeline and sixty-five percent say that Enbridge should be allowed to complete construction work.  A majority see the project as important to Northern Minnesota’s economy and three-fourths say Line 3 has been important for jumpstarting the Northern Minnesota economy.