Mark Phillips

Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB)

An April 2016 report from state Legislative Auditor James Nobles was merciless: The Eveleth-based IRRRB needs much better oversight, and its board structure might not even be constitutional. The IRRRB is primarily funded by a production tax that taconite companies pay in lieu of property taxes. Its mandate is to help the Range economically diversify beyond mining. It has an annual budget of about $40 million to make various loans, equity investments and grants. But some big bets—Ironbound, a film-production facility in Chisholm, or the Essar Steel plant in Nashwauk—haven’t panned out. Then there’s Giants Ridge golf and ski resort in Biwabik: The IRRRB has subsidized annual losses averaging nearly $2 million for almost a decade. The Legislature has made threatening noises about reform. Whether those threats are carried out, Mark Phillips (who became commissioner in 2015) and his board have their work cut out for them.