Special Report: The Canadian Connection | Part One

FOX 21's Brett Scott examines the Canadian Cash Flow into the Twin Ports

GRAND PORTAGE, Minn. – Over 150 miles separate the Twin Ports from our northern border. Each year hundreds of thousands of Canadians travel along Highway 61, making their way down to invest in our local economy.

“We see four-hundred, five-hundred, up to one-thousand packages a day.”

Jaime Spry, General Manager at Ryden’s Border Store, might be decking the halls while dodging delivery trucks.

“We could see as much as 2,000, 2,500 packages a day for about a three week period,” said Spry.

But christmastime, is not around the corner.

“Canadians will order stuff from the states for a couple different reasons,” said Spry.

A close border connection, creating a consumer heyday in the states.

“Either they can’t get the product in Canada, it’s much cheaper, or anything they order, a lot of things can’t be imported into Canada,” said Spry.

Our neighbors to the north, are investing. Big bucks are spent each day over the phone, or by clicks on the computer. Spry says packages from UPS, FedEx, USPS
Mail, and SpeeDee Delivery are delivered each day. Drivers deliver millions of dollars worth of merchandise each year to the local border store in Grand Portage.

“We’ll log the packages, put them away and then they come down and pick them up on their own,” said Spry.

“In the summer I would say that about 25 percent of our traffic is our United States citizens returning from fishing trips and hunting trips,” said Grand Portage Port Director Craig Kalar.

Fall colors also attract frequent visitors from all over the United States; taking tours around Lake Superior.

“Ninety percent of the crossers here are Canadians. During Memorial Day through Labor Day, that’s our busy summer season,” said Kalar.

Throughout Friday and Saturday in the summer, anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 cars pass through, traveling down the north shore, each day. Thousands of Canadians, cruising through the quaint Grand Portage Port of Entry.

“Most of the people coming through here are coming from the Thunder Bay area,” said Kalar.

WIth 125 ways to make way from Canada to the United States, passports are required with each entry in.

“A lot of them are going to the local casino in Grand Portage,” said Kalar. “On the weekends, a lot of them are going to Duluth and Minneapolis.”

Making the three hour trek, to the nearest metro location, primarily for entertainment.

“Our passenger traffic is down approximately eight percent compared to last fiscal year,” said Kalar.

Kalar says historically, passenger traffic fluctuates on the strength of the Canadian dollar.

“We are a retail store, souvenirs and other products are important. Candy, food, pop,” said Spry.

Parcels of paper and coins, contributing to the economy of Minnesota’s North Shore and beyond.

“Primary business right now is receiving packages for Canadians,” said Spry.

For Officer Kalar, business at the border consists of dealing with a daily dose of national security.

“We’re securing the borders from terrorists and terrorist weapons,” said Kalar.

Since 2009, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires all U.S. and Canadian travelers to present their passport or other approved documents when crossing over.

“We probably have a 99 percent compliance rate and it’s not just passports, it’s either an enhanced driver’s license, nexus card, global entry card will also work,” said Kalar.

Global Entry Cards are gaining in popularity, making it easier for frequent travelers to save time.
Kalar says many travelers have been motoring up from Minneapolis to gain access and apply for a Global Entry Card, due to a nearly four month wait in the metro area.

“Regardless of the exchange rate, they’ll often times just come for the day,” said Anna Klobuchar with Visit Cook County. “They love coming to Grand Marais, it’s their little harbor town, their little retreat.”

Motoring miles, creating the Canadian Connection.

In Part Two of Brett’s Special Report, local business leaders and tourism officials share how they keep our neighbors to the north, coming back to the Twin Ports.

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