Ashland Daily Press Article: Let’s not overlook new source of living-wage jobs for our region

From the Ashland Daily Press, November 24, 2017 by Linda Jorgenson

Like most of rural America, the last three decades have not been particularly prosperous ones for Ashland and Bayfield counties. In 2017, both counties still struggle to replace “living wage” jobs like those we lost in the paper and wood products industries in the 1990s. With some exceptions, retail, human services, health care, agriculture and the tourism hospitality sectors have not been able to compensate at that $20-30/hour manufacturing level. The median wage in Ashland County is $19/hour and in Bayfield County it is $22/hour, meaning half the families earn less than this amount and half earn more.

We are not alone. Since 2000, the United States has lost five million manufacturing jobs. Some of this loss is due to off shoring, but it is estimated that in reality 80 percent of those jobs have been lost due to automation. The resulting wage decline has been partnered with wage stagnation. Even the Federal Reserve Bank is stumped as to why the current low unemployment rate is not pressuring wages to rise.

The result has been an unacceptable increase in the number of “working poor,” people who work full-time jobs, but whose earnings now fall below the cost of living. The United Way of Wisconsin estimates that a very conservative survival budget for a family of four in Ashland County would require an hourly wage of $25.81/hour, and for Bayfield County it would require $26.87/hour. Factoring out the families and individuals that fall below the Federal Poverty Level (16 percent for Ashland County and 12 percent for Bayfield County), that still leaves 32 percent of Ashland’s population and 24 percent of Bayfield County that meet the definition of working poor.

Ashland Daily Press Article: BPEA presents renewable energy alternatives to Xcel

WASHBURN – People live in Bayfield County for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the quality of life: clean air, clean water and natural beauty. Whenever these qualities are threatened, Bayfield County citizens tend to let their voices be heard.

One such instance is with Bayfield Peninsula Energy Alternatives, a grassroots study group formed in September around concerns related to the Xcel Energy Bayfield 2nd Circuit Transmission Project: a new 22-mile, 34.5kV line from the Ashland area to Bayfield with a budget of $26,000,000.

When Roy Settgas heard about Xcel’s proposal in August, he immediately contacted his neighbors.

“I got involved with BPEA, because this transmission line would create a new utility rightof-way down the road I live on, across one end of my property, and along primary roads I drive nearly every day,” he said.

Settgas and many other citizens from the five townships affected by the proposal were surprised by how this plan differed from the one Xcel proposed in 2013, which was intended to accomplish the same purpose: to increase electrical reliability and provide additional support to minimize power outages cross the Bayfield Peninsula. That plan did not include any new right-of-ways. Instead, it double-circuited or paralleled the existing 30-year old transmission line route.

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