(BACKUS, MINN) For much of 2020, economic leaders in Northern Minnesota struggled to help their communities and area businesses find enough support to survive the pandemic and what was already a hard economy before COVID-19. Cities and economic development agencies worked hard to find any resources to help, but say the biggest lift to the regional economy was when final permits were issued and work started on the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement project. More than 5,000 people worked on the project starting in December of last year. After a 2-month planned pause, work has restarted across 14 counties across Northern Minnesota.

“With Covid everything was slow here,” said Backus Mayor Kurt Sawyer. “Line 3 just made our whole town. A lot of our businesses were hurting and this really brought everything back. It’s lifted our whole community up. It seems like most people are a lot happier because there’s so much going on and there’s activity again.”

“The financial impact of the Line 3 replacement to Cass County businesses has been positive, and honestly could not have come at a better time,” said Mike Paulus, Executive Director of the Cass County Economic Development Corporation. “On the heels of the COVID-19 economic crisis, the influx of dollars from Line 3 workers into area businesses helped offset financial losses from the shutdown. One business reported that, if not for the Line 3 workers coming to town, the owner would have gone out of business.”

The Line 3 project is one of the largest privately-funded construction projects in Minnesota history. Enbridge is investing more than $2 billion in Minnesota to replace the 337 mile section of the pipeline. In addition to construction work, the project is having a significant economic impact across the region. 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.  Paulus said the combined impact of the project in Cass County has been significant and important.

“It means that business in rural Minnesota can continue to operate and provide employment,” Paulus said. “It means some families were able to weather an economic crisis without relying on government assistance to do so. It means a stronger economic base for all of Cass County. The impact of the Line 3 replacement helped keep the economic engine of Cass County churning at a time when many forces aligned to halt the gains that     Cass County had recognized.”

The process to replace Line 3 started in 2014 during the Obama-Biden Administration.  The Line 3 project is the most reviewed pipeline project in Minnesota history and has been reviewed by state and federal agencies and regulators for almost six years.  The first phase of Line 3 construction started in December of 2020 and in the first four months of work, more than 5,000 people were working on the project across all 14-counties.  As work has restarted, communities are excitied to see construction continue.

“Everybody was skeptical in the beginning because the way they’ve been shutting pipelines down,” Sawyer said, “but this one here has really seemed to keep rolling. Everybody’s excited about it. Everybody likes to see it going on.”

A recent poll showed Minnesotans strongly support the project and recognize its regional economic impact and importance.  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.

Contact: Susan Goudge | 218-556-3617