Living on the North Shore and Gunflint Trail
Have you ever thought “I wish I didn’t have to leave” or “these trips up north are always too short” – you’re not the only one. Visitors have been turning into locals for a long time and for good reason, Cook County is too lovely to leave! Imagine falling asleep to the sound of loons calling from your home at the edge of the BWCAW. Or getting a few runs in at Lutsen Mountains before you start your work day. If you’ve ever felt like this was “home,” let us help you make it a reality!
Who are the people of Cook County, MN
Cook County, Minnesota has a year-round population of around 5,100 people, and is made up of 92% public land—making it the ideal home for those who enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle. Year-round fun can be had fishing, hiking, biking, camping, skiing (down-hill and Nordic—there’s literally hundreds of miles of trails), snowshoeing, horseback riding, snowmobiling, canoeing, kayaking, birding, dog sledding, foraging, and so much more. Cook County also leads the state in having one of the most supporting and a creative mecca for crafts people, musicians, and artists. An important and defining part of Cook County is that it includes Grand Portage—home to the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa. This nation of indigenous people is proud to have called this land their home for thousands of years. In more recent history, with the feel of the Lakeshore and boreal forest reminiscent of their home-countries, Scandinavians started logging, farming and fishing. These industries helped to build the foundations for the communities we know and love today. Though some of the county’s residents still work in those trades, the main industry now is tourism—responsible over 90% of the local economy. Tourism allows Cook County to be rich in pleasures and pastimes, phenomenal eateries and entertainment venues, and outstanding recreational facilities.
Economics and Employment Opportunities
The base of the North Shore economy is tourism, and is the sector in which most job openings occur. The scope of these jobs spans meal service, housekeeping, daily operations at Lutsen Mountains or a local outfitter, customer service personnel, event planning, retail attendants, and guiding and activity services. Outside of tourism and hospitality work, Cook County is also host to a hospital, emergency room, ambulance service, and nursing home for those in the medical field. There are also many opportunities to join the labor and construction workforce—including at Hedstrom’s Lumber Mill or working with a private contractor. Remote working is a breeze due to easily accessible high speed broadband internet from True North Broadband. If you’re interested in finding employment in Cook County, we recommend reaching out to Laura Muus the Workforce Recruitment Specialist with the Cook County Chamber of Commerce. Get in touch with Laura by sending her a message on Facebook.
How is working in Cook County different?
For those used to working and living in an urban environment, making the switch to working on the North Shore can offer a life-style change in more than one way. And because many employers recognize the value people who live in the area find in outdoor activities, there are some businesses that offer some fun perks to their workforce. Lutsen Mountains, for instance, provides their full-time employees with a free Season Pass—what a better way to spend your lunch hour than on the slopes?!
The truth is, you’re only one conversation away from getting started on living here. What are you waiting for??
A World-Class Place to Raise Your Family
Cook County aims to be an inclusive and diverse community that is welcoming to all—regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, political leanings, class, or ability. If you come to our home as a visitor or to stay permanently and experience any discrimination, reach out to any of our public officials and say something. We want you here!
Though the number of permanent residents is small, our communities’ connection to the outside world is great. Because of the area’s history of Scandinavian immigrants, you might assume you’ll only see white faces around town. However, each year hundreds of students from around the world come to work and learn at a number of our area businesses. These foreign exchange students are an important and valued part of our local culture, and we are lucky enough to sometimes have these students eventually decide to permenently move and raise their families here.
Another important and valued part of Cook County’s diversity is our indigenous citizens. The Grand Portage culture and history are an important and integral part of the fabric of daily life here in Cook County. If you’re looking for more information on the history of Gichi-Onigaming, Visit Cook County has listed many great resources on their community page. Don’t forget to check out and read Walking the Old Road by local author and historian Staci Drouillard!
Get to know the local townships and community government:
- Cook County Administrator and Board of Commissioners
- City of Grand Marais
- Lutsen Township
- Town of Tofte Minnesota
- Schroeder Township
- Gichi-Onigaming – Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
A good education system is also a cornerstone of choosing a new place for any family to live. Our communities have many great schools to enroll your children:
- Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School | Grand Marais, MN | Pre K- 5
- Birch Grove Community School | Tofte, MN | K-5
- Oshki Ogimaag Charter School | Grand Portage, MN | K-6
- Great Expectations Charter School | Grand Marais, MN | K-8
- Cook County Middle School | Grand Marais, MN | 6-8
- Cook County High School | Grand Marais, MN | 9-12
For adults looking to live in Cook County, MN, and pursue further education, Cook County Higher Education is a phenomenal resource. A non-profit organization based in Grand Marais, since 1996 CCHE has made it possible for local residents to earn certificates, diplomas, and degrees while living over 100 miles from the nearest college or university. In the past 10 years, CCHE has expanded its offerings to include college prep, training & development, and lifelong learning opportunities.
When in doubt, and looking to figure something local out, there are a few places to check, you’ll soon have a knack for know what gets posted where:
- Boreal | This website is chock-full of great information including a robust classified section with job listings, housing availability, and more
- WTIP | 90.7 FM Grand Marais, 89.1 Gunflint Trail, and 90.1 Grand Portage, this community radio station is the true conduit of the North Shore news and fun. From musical programming, to in-depth reporting on local life, WTIP has it all.
- Visit Cook County | It should be mentioned that Visit Cook County is a great resource for more than visitors looking to learn about our communities. Locals can find lots of information out from our website and social media pages too! Some really helpful pages include the Dining and Retail Hours (are you wondering which of the local eateries are closed on Wednesdays again?), the events calendar, and (during the winter) our trail conditions page (grooming and fresh powder updates as fast as we can get them from all over the county!). Scroll through Visit Cook County’s local services page to find all kinds of links to area businesses and services from hospitals and clinics, to where to get a 6 pack of beer, or get your relaxation on after moving all those boxes at a spa!