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Board gives Ironworld $1 million

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm will reopen with a $1 million grant from the Iron Range Resources Board.

A non-profit corporation that runs the facility formerly known as Ironworld will combine that $1 million with other money it has available to run the Chisholm operation.

The state board will provide another $250,000 if the non-profit organization that runs the center, Ironworld Development Corp., can come up with a like amount.

The development corporation is to announce today when it will open for the year and on Tuesday its board is to hire an interim director as the museum and research operation attempts to recover from cash problems that closed it last fall.

Iron Range Resources Commissioner Sandy Layman said a management agreement she negotiated with the non-profit corporation should allow the center to remain open. Iron Range Resources owns the land, building and some contents, but turned management over to the non-profit.

Rich Puhek, chairman of the non-profit's board, promised the Iron Range Resources Board that the newly opened center will be leaner and better managed.

In an interview, Puhek said he expects the equivalent of 14 employees this season in an operation scaled back from the past. Since November, the center has been closed, with only a skeleton staff.

Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said he wants the name to revert to Ironworld to better tie the Chisholm center to the Iron Range.

Puhek said that the name change generated much anger on the Range, and the non-profit's board will discuss whether to go with a different name once it gets its finances straightened up.

"We have alienated a significant portion of our customer base," Puhek said of the name change.

The facility ran out of money last year, but the state board injected $420,000 in emergency funding to keep it running.

The center specializes in Iron Range genealogy and also contains a museum.

Ironworld Development Corp. has run the center since 2007, when the IRR established a $10 million endowment to provide finances.

Chisholm's two legislators, Sen. David Tomassoni and Rep. Tony Sertich, said they are confident the $1 million infusion will keep the 30-plus-year-old facility operating.

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.