Delta Air Lines is asking the state of Minnesota for a $5.9 million forgivable loan to renovate the Iron Range call center that is now 2 decades old and was originally built with public money.
Delta's loan application claims the renovation of its call center in Chisholm, Minn., would add 107 jobs to the 418 current employees.
Northwest Airlines built the Chisholm call center in 1995 with a $9.7 million loan from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. Only $1 million of that loan was repaid, with the rest forgiven.
The new loan will be considered by the IRRRB on Thursday, but there is certainly plenty of ill-will in play.
"Wherever there is a hub airline, there tends to be a love-hate relationship," former Northwest spokesman Jon Austin told Fox 9 News.
The previous deal had the state of Minnesota feeling a bit like a jilted ex-lover after lending plenty of money and ending up with broken promises and hurt feelings.
Considering the long, rocky relationship with the airline, Delta -- which purchased Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines -- promises that this time will be different. Even so, there is reason to be skeptical. The company said it was committed to maintaining its headquarters in Eagan, but eventually packed up and moved to Atlanta.
Austin, who worked for Northwest for 10 years, said many Minnesotans feel snubbed by Delta, but their remaining Minnesota-based operation is now looking to expand.
"The reservation center up in the Iron Range has been a very successful first for Northwest, then for Delta," he explained.
So, with the airline turning back to the IRRB once more over the 40,000-square-foot facility, some see the pledge to modernize as a reconciliation.
"It's a very good deal," Tony Sertich, IRRRB chairman, told Fox 9 News. "One hundred jobs is a big deal for rural Minnesota and the Iron Range, and this center has been around for 20 years. This is going to extend the life and expand jobs in our region."
In exchange for the forgivable loan, Delta will sign a 12-year agreement and up their employment to more than 500 in the area. Since the call center has been good for business so far, Austin says the move to modernize makes sense.
"If they can get the IRRRB, the state or other entities to help them with the modernization, that's probably a win-win for everybody," he said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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