Latest News

Construction Jobs Increased in Two Minnesota Metro Areas During Pandemic

Date: August 11, 2021

Two Minnesota metropolitan areas added construction jobs over the 16-month period after February 2020, in spite of national decline and stagnation in the industry, according to an analysis of government employment data by the Associated General Contractors of America. The Twin Cities region added approximately 13,800 jobs, representing 18% growth, while St. Cloud saw 39% growth with the addition of 2,400 jobs.

In general, however, the report found a flattening of construction jobs in 101 metro areas nationwide, indicating the pandemic’s continued negative impact on the industry.


Plymouth Corporation Announces Innovation Center Plans

Date: August 11, 2021

Minnesota Rubber and Plastics announced that it will be building a 9,000 sq. ft. innovation center adjacent to the company’s corporate headquarters in Plymouth. The supplier of engineered elastomers and thermoplastics to the medical, water, and industrial end markets says the facility will provide customers with access to materials scientists and engineers in an immersive design-prototype-build-test process that can be conducted in-person or online. the result will be the same: a game-changing engineer-to-engineer collaboration experience that helps to bring healthcare innovations to life faster. Architectural plans have been approved and construction is expected to be completed in spring 2022.


New Law Bridges Gap for Utilities Providing Renewable Energy Services

Date: August 11, 2021

Minnesota’s new Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act, which updates the Department of Commerce’s Conservation Improvement Program, enables utilities to receive credit for preweatherization and other preparatory work. This work must be done before the low-income participants in the program can receive energy efficiency upgrades to their homes. Previously, utilities were reimbursed only for the energy efficiency modifications; the new law bridges this gap, Energy News Network reports. Examples of the work covered include asbestos removal and mold remediation.

As a result, energy utilities Xcel and CenterPoint in the Twin Cities will be spending at least $16 million by 2024 on low-income electric and gas weatherization projects.


Minnesota Job Opportunities

Date: August 11, 2021

Sr. Quality Engineer
3M

Power Delivery Engineer
Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency

Brian Malm, P.E., Honored as NSPE Fellow

Date: July 21, 2021

Brian Malm PE

Minnesota civil engineer Brian Malm, P.E., who has served the Society at the national, state, and chapter levels with distinction, was recently named an NSPE Fellow. Malm has been a member of NSPE and the Minnesota Society for almost 22 years. He has served as Southeast Chapter president, MnSPE president, and as a member of the NSPE Board of Directors and Membership Committee. The principal engineer and project manager for Bolton & Menk Inc. in Rochester oversees the firm’s Rochester Civil Work Group and currently serves as the city engineer for several cities in southeast Minnesota.


Union Construction Workers Earn More without Adding to Project Costs, Report Says

Date: July 21, 2021

Union construction workers in Minnesota earn more than non-union workers without adding to total project costs, according to a study by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, as was reported in the Park Rapids Enterprise.

The Institute examined a sample of 640 Twin Cities-area school construction projects from 2015 and 2017; 71% were awarded to union contractors. The researchers found that union-backed projects cost an average of $14.6 million, compared to an average of $14.1 million for nonunion projects. The study also noted the importance of apprenticeship programs in creating skilled workers for future projects


Anti-Freeway Expansion Activists Butt Heads with Lawmakers

Date: July 21, 2021

The Twin Cities have passed resolutions backing anti-freeway advocates who say expanding and widening freeways through downtown areas is bad for humans and the planet. The roads are typically built in low-income areas populated by ethnic minorities, and often don’t help with congestion, the Minnesota Reformer reports. However, these activists face strong opposition from state-level politicians who typically favor spending on roads and bridges. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is also working on a 20-year plan to reshape transportation in the state.

In Minneapolis, advocates oppose the widening of I-94, and in St. Paul, they are pushing for the state to build a cap over I-94 through the El Rondo neighborhood. They also want MnDOT to invest more in transit, biking, and walking. The resolutions from both cities are in line with these sentiments.


Minnesota Job Opportunities

Date: July 21, 2021

County Engineer
Roseau County

See other engineering job opportunities on the NSPE Job Board.

Solar Energy Projects to Aid Pandemic-Affected Communities

Date: June 7, 2021

Minnesota Power has received approval for a $40 million investment in solar energy from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The company plans to construct 20 megawatts of solar arrays in northern Minnesota that will help it meet the state’s Solar Energy Standard. In addition, the investment advances Minnesota Power’s EnergyForward strategy and its vision for delivering carbon-free energy by 2050. The projects are a 9.6-megawatt array at Minnesota Power's Laskin Energy Center, adjacent to the Laskin Energy Park in Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota; a 10-megawatt array near the company's Sylvan Hydro Station near Brainerd, Minnesota; and a 1.6-megawatt array on a proposed site on Riley Road in the city of Duluth.


Utilities Continued to Provide Safe Water During Pandemic

Date: June 7, 2021

Public water utilities in Minnesota continued to provide safe drinking water to millions of Minnesotans despite challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data from the state’s Department of Health. Ninety-nine percent of Minnesotans on public water systems received water that met federal standards in 2020. Preparedness and continued monitoring were instrumental in the utilities’ success, the department reports.

Last August, experts at the University of Minnesota cautioned that the state needed to remain vigilant during the pandemic in protecting drinking water and suggested policy changes. The state’s challenges include contamination from industrial and agricultural pollution as well as personal care products, aging supply systems taxed by the increasing frequency of storms, and covering the costs of water treatment and cleanup.

Clean Cars Rule Can Move Forward

Date: May 13, 2021

An administrative law judge ruled that the state can adopt the controversial Clean Cars Minnesota rules without the approval of lawmakers. The move would adopt California’s low emission standards for the state, in an effort to lower greenhouse emissions from transportation. Car dealers have opposed the measure, which requires lower than federal standards, and Republican lawmakers are fighting the measure.

In a report, the judge said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency followed the correct procedures under the law and has the statutory authority to adopt the law. If passed, it would be the first such law in the Midwest.

If Clean Cars Minnesota is enacted, Minnesota would be the 15th state (plus the District of Columbia) to follow California's stricter emissions rules, according to Green Car Reports.


Organic Recycling Coming to St. Paul, Recycling Facility Expands

Date: May 13, 2021

More than 300,000 households in and around St. Paul are gaining the ability to recycle food scraps curbside, The Star-Tribune reports. The new service will be the largest change in area recycling in 30 years.

Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy has begun construction on a $40 million enhancement of its Newport facility, where robots will separate plastic bags from the food scraps. Food materials are recyclable through composting and mulching, and through anaerobic digestion, which can produce renewable energy and fuel. The expansion plan has been in the works since last year, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

State Could Assist Municipalities with Winter Utility Costs

Date: April 16, 2021

After the huge storm that hit the Midwest this winter, Minnesota lawmakers are considering legislation that would offer municipally owned utilities zero interest loans to help with massive spikes in costs. Extremely low temperatures in the state in mid-February forced municipalities to purchase natural gas at high prices driven up by demand and by supply shortages caused by storms in the South, according to the Pine Journal.

The proposal could allow the state to loan out $15 million from its general fund. The utilities would then pass the cost onto its customers spread out over several years. Customers could pay up to several hundred dollars.


Minnesota Receives “C” in Infrastructure

Date: April 16, 2021

Minnesota’s infrastructure received a C grade on its Infrastructure Report Card from the White House, which released state-by-state fact sheets along with its “American Jobs Plan,” which is focused on infrastructure.

The report cites road and bridge upkeep, public transportation, and infrastructure resilience as areas that need significant improvement in the state.

New Water Treatment Plant Planned for St. Paul

Date: March 18, 2021

A new water treatment plant will be constructed for the east metro area of St. Paul by 2025, twincites.com reports. A customer rate hike will pay for the $260 million project and other smaller efforts, with the rate increase reaching 25% by year four. Replacing the existing facility will reportedly be the most expensive project of this type in state history, but a new plant is needed, according to officials.


Going Electric in More Sectors Would Decrease Emissions and Help Economy

Date: March 18, 2021

New research from nonpartisan thinktanks Energy Innovation and RMI, using the Minnesota Energy Policy Simulator, found that emissions are rising in sectors like buildings and industry in the state. This runs counter to the state’s achievement of having a carbon-free electric grid. Policies to switch these sectors over to electric energy would not only decrease emissions, but help produce a more equitable and sustainable economy, the study found.

New Electric Truck Facility Coming to St. Paul Area

Date: February 11, 2021

Electric work truck company, Zeus Electric Chassis, has made a large deal with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District for $1.2 million. The Minnesota company will assemble its customizable vehicles at a new facility in the St. Paul suburb of White Bear Lake. Its focus is on medium-duty trucks like flatbeds, cherry pickers, and delivery trucks, according to Midwest Energy News.

Minnesota is also home to electric bus manufacturer, New Flyer. The Twin Cities are an ideal location for the companies, the article says, due to their proximity to midwestern states that produce parts needed for large electric vehicles.


City of Wadena Goes Carbon-Free

Date: February 11, 2021

Wadena’s city council recently voted to buy 10% of the city’s purchased electric power through Missouri River Energy Service’s new Green Energy rate, providing the city with entirely carbon-free electricity, the Pioneer Journal reports. In doing so, Wadena joins many cities and towns around the US that are moving toward using renewable energy sources. Seven states, plus Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, are committed by law to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050 or earlier, and nearly 210 cities have achieved or pledged to reach 100% clean electricity or “net-zero” emissions, according to NRDC.

But an article on Grist.org explains that achieving100% carbon-free electricity isn’t so simple for towns and cities. “The reality is a bit complicated — and it shows the challenges of true, ‘deep’ decarbonization of electricity in the United States.” There are caveats. As a research associate at the University of Texas at Austin says, the goal to run 100% renewable is more like an accounting mechanism than accurate description. Additionally, delivery of clean electricity 24/7 requires technologies (like batteries, nuclear, geothermal, and hydrogen) that need further development. An engineering professor at Princeton said that if the US wants to zero out emissions, “we need to spend the next decade very proactively — pushing these technologies forward and seeing which ones succeed, how quickly they mature, and how fast we can scale them up in the future.”


Minnesota Job Opportunities

Date: February 11, 2021

Postdoctoral Research Fellow - Microfluidic Engineering
Mayo Clinic

Director of Ecological and Water Resources Division
State of Minnesota - DNR

See other engineering job opportunities on the NSPE Job Board.

Minnesota Investing in Renewable Power Sources

Date: January 27, 2021

Minnesota Power now generates 50% of its power from renewables, primarily wind and hydro, making it the first utility in the state to do so. This was achieved using the company’s EnergyForward strategy to transition to cleaner energy sources while providing reliable and affordable electricity. In December, the company’s Noble 2 wind project came online; it will supply Minnesota Power with renewable energy through a 20-year signed agreement. As a whole, Minnesota gets 20 percent of its power from wind energy, which is higher than the national average, according to cubminnestora.org.


Historic Minneapolis Bridge Closed for Repairs for Two Years

Date: January 27, 2021

The 3rd Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis has closed to all traffic for nearly two years in order to undergo major repairs for the first time in 40 years, according to the StarTribune. The bridge will be closed to vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. The $130 million project will comprise top-to-bottom repairs, including the removal of concrete columns, restoration of Art Deco railings, a new bridge deck, and bicycle and pedestrian lanes on a new sidewalk.


Contractors Express Mixed Feelings About the Near Future

Date: January 27, 2021

Minnesota’s construction industry is unsure about the coming year as it moves forward after the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. According to a recent survey by the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota, nearly six out of 10 respondents think the economy will stay the same or improve during 2021, while 42% believe it will go downhill. The 2020-21 Minnesota Construction Industry Assessment surveyed 160 contractors, material suppliers, and architecture and engineering firms. The respondents reported having continued concerns about project cancellations and supply chain interruptions.


Oil Pipeline Project Gains Regulator Approval

Date: December 16, 2020

Construction began on a disputed crude oil pipeline in northern Minnesota after Enbridge Energy received final approval for the project from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Previously, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission also approved the project. The $2.6 billion venture is the Line 3 Replacement Project across northern Minnesota. The project was the most reviewed in state history, according to Governor Tim Walz.
Local tribes had tried to fight the approval of the project; they said the influx of workers would put their communities at greater risk of getting COVID-19. In early December, the Public Utilities Commission denied a request from the Red Lake and White Earth Bands of Chippewa to delay work on the pipeline in light of the fact that a consolidated appeal by environmental and tribal groups is pending before the Minnesota Court of Appeals.


Local Fight Against Climate Change Going Strong

Date: December 16, 2020

Minneapolis ranks fourth among US cities in terms of succeeding at setting and meeting goals for fighting climate change, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The council, which analyzed cities’ efforts in this area and ranked them on a scale from 1-100, lauded Minneapolis’s progress reducing greenhouse gas emissions, efforts to integrate equity into climate efforts, and policies such as residential-energy disclosure, MinnPost reports. Governor Walz has been focused on reversing climate change since last year, when he set up a Climate Change Advisory Council and promoted legislation (which did not pass) aimed at transitioning energy production to wind and solar by 2050.

Governor Allocates $1.9 Billion to Public Works

Date: November 18, 2020

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has signed into law the $1.9 billion Local Jobs and Projects Plan that includes $627 million for transportation infrastructure, including local roads and bridges, and $269 million for water infrastructure projects. The measure will fund hundreds of construction projects across the state and aims to create jobs.
 
“This bipartisan plan invests in the projects that local communities told us matter most to them. Whether that’s roads and bridges, clean water, or affordable housing, this plan will help ensure every community in Minnesota prospers,” Walz said.


Coalition Promotes Alternatives to Natural Gas in Minnesota

Date: November 18, 2020

Minnesota environmental groups are trying to change the perception that natural gas is cheap and clean. The state is working to close its remaining coal plants but plans to build more natural gas facilities. A coalition of 10 groups driving the “Energy We Can’t Afford” campaign says emissions from natural gas are detrimental and contribute to climate change, and that building solar and wind energy facilities is cheaper. It hopes to rally the public to lobby against the creation of new natural gas power plants.


MN, Ontario Partner on Bridge Replacement

Date: October 28, 2020

MnDOT has completed a replacement of the Baudette/Rainy River International Bridge, which links north-central Minnesota to Ontario, according to Transportation Topics. The $39.3 million bridge is steel-girder and cast-in-place concrete deck and was a partnership between MnDOT and the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario. Stantec created the preliminary and environmental designs, and Parsons Transportation Group developed the bridge’s final design. Demolition of The old bridge, which is scheduled for demolition beginning in October, was built in 1959. According to MnDOT, the steel truss bridge is a rare example of a Pennsylvania truss structure (named after the Pennsylvania Railroad). Due to the bridge’s historic standing, the state was required to make it available for preservation and relocation, which was complicated by the fact that Minnesota owned only half the bridge. MnDOT’s project manager said, “[S]ince ownership of the bridge is split with Canada, we were actually advertising only half of a bridge for sale. The advertising for the chance to buy half of a bridge created a stir online and in the media, but it didn’t generate any interested parties due to the considerable costs to disassemble, move and reassemble.”


Researchers Study COVID Spread from Musical Instruments

Date: October 28, 2020

University of Minnesota mechanical engineering researchers are working with the Minnesota Orchestra to figure out the likelihood that aerosols from brass and woodwind instruments can spread the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, reports the Star Tribune. University faculty member Jon Hallberg said, “The degree of aerosol coming out of a wind instrument or a brass instrument is actually less than we thought it might be,” adding, “Realizing there isn’t this enormous difference between breathing and playing the instrument in terms of aerosol production, velocity and spread — that became very reassuring.” Early results were published in the Journal of Aerosol Science.


We Want to Hear from You!

Date: October 28, 2020

Do you know of engineering news in Minnesota that would be great for this newsletter? Maybe it’s a project you or your firm is working on, or perhaps you read some interesting engineering news in your local newspaper. Or maybe you know of a fellow PE or student who deserves a little recognition. If so, we want to hear from you. Email your ideas to pemagazine@nspe.org

Minnesota Considers Following PE Exam Trend

Minnesota Welcomes You

As more states make the move to allow early taking of the PE exam, will Minnesota be next?

The Minnesota licensing board is considering a rule amendment to allow applicants to take the PE exam before gaining four years of professional experience. Applicants will still be required to complete all education, examination, and experience requirements before being granted a PE license.

Traditionally, licensure candidates have been allowed to take the PE exam only after passing the FE exam and gaining four years of approved experience. The board is considering the change because it believes that allowing applicants the option of taking the exam prior to completing the experience requirement may encourage and facilitate emerging professionals to pursue a PE license. They can do so without having to polish their exam-taking skills many years after graduating from college.

In 2005, Nevada became the first state to allow the early taking of the PE exam. The following states have followed suit: Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

NSPE is in favor of state licensing boards allowing candidates to take the PE exam early, if they have met the educational requirements for licensure and passed the FE exam. The Society also believes that the requirement of four years of progressive engineering experience should remain unchanged, and licensure candidates who pass the PE exam early need to gain the required years of engineering experience before becoming licensed.

To provide guidance to engineering professionals on the path to licensure, NSPE has published When Can I Take the PE Exam? States Allowing Examination Before Experience, which covers the state-by-state details.