By Rick Olivo
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, included a stop at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center Thursday during a series of working visits to a number of northwestern Wisconsin locations.
Earlier in the day, Baldwin visited port facilities in Superior and spoke with officials from Kestrel Aircraft of Superior.
Kestrel, which has some 60 workers at present hopes to expand that figure to 600 in the next few years, if it can get financing for expanding the production of their unique composite-constructed aircraft.
In her visit to the NGLVC, Baldwin heard about a number of public-private partnerships at the center as well as the role the center plays in local economic development. She said much of the focus of her visits around the state has been on the economy.
"My visit to the northwestern portion of Wisconsin has also been focused on forestry, the lumber industry, papermaking, and forest products generally," Baldwin said. "I'm trying to learn a lot about the parts of the state that I didn't represent when I was in the House of Representatives, to prepare myself to be the strongest advocate possible for job creation and healthy management for our natural resources, because I believe they can be co-existent."
Baldwin said she had been hearing about both the areas successes and the challenges where she could play a role.
""I've had some very specific discussions. Just now in Superior I was meeting with a new business. If it works well, it could employ 600, but right now it employs 60. We've been talking about some of the financing hurdles they face as a business in its early stages."
She said discussions in Crandon, Park Falls and other areas also turned up different sets of issues.
Still she said there was much room for optimism.
"I intend to take a lot of what I have learned back to my job," she said.
Baldwin said she has heard varied perspectives about the mining issue from her constituents.
"They recognize that there is a federal piece of this larger debate, but that it is mostly a local and state debate," she said. "Oftentimes they share their opinions as to where we should go from here, but they recognize that there is a process that has been set up. The federal role in all of this has three main facets. Obviously the Army Corps of Engineers has a permit-issuing role, the Clean Water Act is relevant to this, as the water will ultimately end up in Lake Superior, and the Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs is an advocate for the treaty and sovereign rights of the Indian nations that have a stake in all this. Those are the three areas that I will deal with at the appropriate time, but it's not yet."
As Baldwin toured the Visitor Center, she was clearly impressed with the quality of the exhibits, particularly the newly completed mural.
"The Great Lakes Visitor Center is an amazing asset for this area. I have to confess with a little embarrassment that I have been within yards of it probably 40 times in the last decade and this is my first stop," she said. "It won't be my last stop, because you can't get out of it all you want to learn in just one quick stop. It's a great asset and I am proud of the vision that accomplished bringing it here."
Baldwin said once Congress returns to Washington, they will face a number of challenges.
"In terms of the things that are already on the agenda in the Senate, we have an energy efficiency bill coming to the floor. We have a lot of work to do on our budget and appropriations process before the end of the fiscal year on September 30." She said. "We have to figure out a path that gets us around the obstructionism that we have seen way too much of in Washington. I think everyone has had enough of the manufactured fiscal crises that has been foisted upon all of us in recent years. I want to be part of a constructive group working to get back to an orderly way of budgeting, appropriating and bringing certainty for folks who have to plan ahead."