Monday, March 14, 2011
Poised for Population Growth
In recent years, the Duluth Area Chamber's leadership has heralded the benefits to be realized by increasing Duluth's population. Our message has been consistent and unwavering. It has also been a voice and a message that has not always been embraced by several of our brothers and sisters within our beloved community.
And, until recently, our voice was a lone voice - distinct and separate from that of others heard in the public arena.
Thankfully, our persistence in advocating for thoughtful, planned growth is gaining support. In his State of the City Address presented earlier this week, Mayor Ness issued his challenge to grow Duluth's population from 85,000 to 90,000. We applaud Mayor Ness' leadership. With Mayor Ness leading the way, the base of support for growth will surely expand.
It is important for community members to realize that we will not so much "grow" to 90,000 as we will "return" to 90,000. In 1960, the population of our Emerald City on the Hill's population peaked at 106,884, and our city's future looked bright. A thriving port city, Duluth was still riding the post-war manufacturing high. Our nation was also fully experiencing the post-war baby boom.
Fast forward to today. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that Duluth's population is 84,262. Can a community lose 22,622 members (21%) within 50 years and still remain vibrant? Each of us has our own perspective on the ideal size for our community. Nevertheless, the recent census figures vividly illustrate that we cannot achieve the goal voiced, in prior years, by many Duluthians to "keep Duluth just the way it is." Communities either grow or decline; it is impossible to maintain a community in a static condition. Attempts to "keep Duluth just the way it is" will only end in frustration.
Growth is the healing balm for our Shining City on the Hill. Growth will lead to additional funding for our school systems. It will result in more opportunities for young people and additional investment in community services. Additional Duluthians will increase our political clout at the State Legislature and in Congress. Growth will infuse our community with additional private and public investment that fund our city services, such as police and fire protection.
There is abundant reason for optimism for those who welcome additional members of our community. Our population base has been stabilized and it appears that, since 2006, we have enjoyed an upturn in our population.
Additionally, Duluth is consistently being recognized by state and national authorities as an attractive and compelling place to vacation, work and live. Jobs are on the increase. More young people are choosing to remain in Duluth and choosing to relocate here. Five new or totally refurbished public schools will open this fall and welcome back our youth. Our colleges and universities are enjoying strong enrollment. Our clean air, pristine water, safe neighborhoods and panoramic views are increasingly compelling.
Our voices heralding the attributes of population growth are joining together to generate a powerful and positive chorus.
posted by David Ross