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Joe Atkins: Dakota County's playbook looking good

By Joe Atkins, Dakota County Commissioner, District 4

Along with news about a record number of jobs in Dakota County and upgrades to our county parks and libraries, I have included a bit of local history about how the NFL forever changed Dakota County.

RECORD EMPLOYMENT. There are now over 234,000 jobs in Dakota County, and the county's unemployment rate is down to 2.2 percent, according to recently released state figures. The jobs number is an all-time county record, while the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since 2000.

BOOK SMART. With widespread internet availability and ubiquitous smartphones, some experts predicted library use would drop precipitously. However, in Dakota County, we have more than 150,000 active users who checked out 4.7 million materials from the county's nine libraries. We are doing library upgrades to meet the needs of today's users.

MORE FUNDS FOR ROSEMOUNT PARKS/TRAILS AND PRESERVING WOODLANDS, WETLANDS AND OPEN SPACE. The county collects host community fees from landfills each year. I proposed — and the County Board recently approved — setting aside a larger portion of these landfill fees for use in communities where landfills are located, including Rosemount. For 2018, this means Rosemount is eligible for up to $3 million in grants for things like improving local parks and trails as well as for protecting woodlands, wetlands and open space.

HOW THE NFL FOREVER CHANGED DAKOTA COUNTY. Most folks don't realize that if it had it not been for pro football, and specifically the Miami Dolphins, six Dakota County cities might not exist today. In the early 1960s, a vast expanse of Dakota County, including Eagan, Rosemount, Apple Valley, Lakeville, Inver Grove and Burnsville, was expected to be made into a 180-square-mile "megacity," dwarfing St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Powerful St. Paul attorney Joe Robbie chaired the Metropolitan Municipal Commission back then, which at the time heavily influenced creation of cities. Robbie's goal was to create Minnesota's largest city here in central Dakota County, and he was in the right position to do it. However, Robbie became intrigued with another dream: owning a professional football team. With help from singer Danny Thomas, Robbie raised the $7.5 million needed to buy a franchise and moved to south Florida to establish the Miami Dolphins. With Robbie no longer in the way, and considerable effort by local citizens and elected officials, six Dakota County cities were incorporated soon after he departed.

THE GREEN BAY PACKERS OF DAMS. For the green-and-gold fans out there who proudly boast of public ownership of the Packers, you might be interested to learn that Dakota County residents collectively own a dam. Nestled in the scenic Cannon River Valley, the Dakota County-owned Byllesby Dam protects residents downstream and generates enough electricity to power 2,400 homes. The dam's 108-year-old turbines are about to be replaced, making it even more of a power producer.

Behind the 75-foot-high dam lies Lake Byllesby and a county park of the same name, which contains hiking trails, a playground, campground, beach and boat launch. The dam was constructed in 1910 by H.M. Byllesby, who previously worked for Thomas Edison, and went on to found Northern States Power.

INVADERS. Thank you to everyone who attended a meeting on Jan. 16 at Lebanon Hills Park to talk about the county's plans to ramp up efforts to battle buckthorn and other invasive species in the park.

HOMELESS COUNT. I was one of the volunteers for the county's annual Point-In-Time Count, a required count of people experiencing homeless in each county in Minnesota. I will share the results in a future update once they are compiled.

HELP STOP HUMAN TRAFFICKING. Dakota County has two investigators working with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on sex trafficking investigation. In addition, the Sheriff's Office received a federal grant to aid our efforts to extract evidence from technology to combat sexual violence and domestic abuse, since much of the sex trafficking is conducted online. If you suspect human trafficking, call 911 and/or contact:

National Human Trafficking Resource Center


SMS: 233733 (Text "HELP" or "INFO")

Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week

Languages: English, Spanish and 200 more languages


As always, I welcome comments and questions. I can be reached at 651-438-4430 or at