Tourism is big business in the Northland - especially in Ely, the well-established and internationally-known entry point for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  And, it's about to get bigger.

The town with a population of 3,283 (according to the 2020 U.S. Census) has been selected to receive a sizable grant to "support tourism and outdoor recreation" in the area.  The money comes from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) - a leg of the U.S. Department of Commerce.  According to details released by the EDA, Ely, Minnesota will receive $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Funds.

While the American Rescue Plan has made $3 billion available to ease and "assist communities nationwide in their efforts to [rebuild] by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks". Of that dollar amount, $210 million was specifically set aside under what's known as the American Rescue Plan Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Program.  Ely's grant money will come from this source.

Equally impressive about the $1.5 million in federal grant money is the fact that the net result for the city will be double; another $1.5 million in local funds will make the total amount of dollars available total $3 million.

So what will Ely use the money for?  According to the EDA, the city is investing by constructing the Ely Regional Trailhead Facility.  Similar to a tourist center,  the building will house public "restrooms, vending machines, and common areas" that are "designed to welcome tourists to the region and its local businesses".

The expected net result would be jobs and local spending.  Planners suggest that the Ely Regional Trailhead Facility would "create 75 jobs, retain 50 jobs, and generate $500,000 in private investment".

Minnesota's Senators both weighed in on the grant award with comments.  Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar shared that:

"Northern Minnesota has incredible natural beauty that attracts people from across the world.  This funding is a true win-win, creating good-paying jobs and helping locals and visitors alike enjoy the outdoor recreation that Ely has to offer."

Meanwhile, Klobuchar's colleague, Minnesota Senator Tina Smith pointed out the fact that the funding will not only help Ely-proper, but the greater region as a whole:

"Minnesota is blessed with pristine natural landscapes and I'm always thrilled when we're able to make them more accessible and inviting.  This investment, made possible by the American Rescue Plan, will help support over one-hundred jobs while boosting the tourism industry and local economy in Ely.  This facility will also be a great addition to the Mesabi Trail, which showcases the area all the way from Grand Rapids to Ely.  I look forward to seeing the facility when it's completed and will continue working with local leaders around Minnesota to protect and grow our outdoor recreation and tourism industries."

No timetable or start date has been released for the construction of the Ely Regional Trailhead facility.

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