Sullivan: New Wisconsin mining bill will pass next year (09.13.2012)

The Business Journal by Jeff Engel, Reporter

Wisconsin will pass mining legislation next year, Tim Sullivan emphatically predicted Thursday.

Sullivan, former CEO of Bucyrus International Inc. and current unpaid consultant for business and work force development for the state, said there’s lots of work going on “behind the scenes” on reintroducing a mining reform bill after a measure failed earlier this year.

As a result of the bill's failure, Gogebic Taconite withdrew plans for a $1.5 billion open pit ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. The mine would have employed as many as 700 people and would have benefited other businesses, from suppliers throughout the state to retail establishments and restaurants near the mine, said supporters, who included Sullivan.

“(A new bill will) be introduced in January, and it’ll pass,” said Sullivan, though the final bill might be different from what was previously introduced.

Sullivan made the comments in response to an audience member’s question at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” forum at Marquette University’s Law School.

Gogebic could revisit plans in Wisconsin, but “they don’t have to come back” because other mining operations would likely choose Wisconsin if the state passed such reforms, Sullivan said.

“We can get the thing right environmentally,” Sullivan said, pointing to mining operations in the environmentally conscious state of Minnesota.

Sullivan appeared at the event to discuss his report released last month on addressing the skills gap many Wisconsin employers, particularly in manufacturing, say they’re struggling with.

Sullivan explained some of the report’s more controversial recommendations, such as incorporating performance-based funding at all levels of education and reducing state subsidies for Wisconsin Technical College System students who come in with four-year degrees.

He also said the report could’ve been double its 126 pages had all topics that were explored been included in the final product.

When Gousha asked him what he plans to do after he’s done consulting for the state, Sullivan said he’s not sure, but that he will continue with this project until the end of 2012.

“I’m going to exit stage left and wave in the rear view mirror at the end of the year,” Sullivan joked.

Sullivan, a self-proclaimed independent who previously considered running for elected office, said he could end up in the public sector if the right opportunity came up.

Jeff Engel is The Business Journal's reporter covering the manufacturing industry.