Friday, January 20, 2012
The Impact of Manufacturing on Duluth's Past and Present
A talented local author and newspaper editor, Chuck Frederick, wrote a compelling book in 1994 titled, Duluth - The City and The People. The book is a community treasure. It illustrates Duluth's remarkable past in a compelling and entertaining fashion. I review the book whenever I need insight into Duluth's rich history or whenever I need to be reminded of how abundantly fortunate I am to live and work in this Shining City on the Hill. Paging through the book always leaves me energized and informed.
Chuck chronicles the city's development from the day of the Ojibwe to the day of the tourist. He shares the magical aspects of our uniquely beautiful city built between the edge of the wilderness and the shores of the Greatest of the Great Lakes.
The book also chronicles the rise and fall of manufacturing in Duluth. Large scale industry came to Duluth in 1913 when U.S. Steel built a $6 million steel plant in the western end of Duluth. The company also built a model neighborhood, named Morgan Park, adjacent to the plant to house the company's employees.
Manufacturing expanded in Duluth with the opening of a cement plant, wire mills and a nail mill. In 1916, a shipyard along the St. Louis River produced eight vessels at a time. Duluth's manufacturing industry continued to grow exponentially, encouraged by the military build-up associated with World War II. It's growth continued as it met the production needs associated with the post-war building boom. It was a wild ride that continued until the 1970's when American industries started moving to other countries. In 1971, U.S. Steel closed its doors. Other smokestack industries struggled and either closed or relocated. Fortunately, manufacturing continued in Duluth; albeit at a greatly reduced level.
If Chuck Frederick decides to update his book and release a 2012 edition, it likely would chronicle the rise and fall...and rise of manufacturing in Duluth. Two weeks ago, a foundry in Gary-New Duluth, ME Elecmetal, announced it will be undergoing a $12 million expansion that is expected to create dozens of jobs. The company announced it will increase production by twenty-five percent. ME Elecmetal produces iron and steel castings for the mining industry. What makes this expansion remarkable is that it occurs so shortly after ME Elecmetal underwent a $10 million expansion in 2011. The combination of the two projects will result in a production capacity increase of 40 percent over two years.
Thankfully, other area manufacturers are also bringing jobs and investment to our beloved community. BendTec, Cirrus Design Corporation, NorthStar Aerospace, Ikonics Corporation, Altec HiLine, Loll Designs, Duluth Pack, Kylmala Truss, Field Logic, GPM, Inc., and Superior Steel, Inc. are keeping our community's legacy of manufacturing alive. The Chamber's leadership appreciates these manufacturers and applauds their tenacity and resilience.
In the early 1900's, manufacturing was instrumental in the building of Duluth. Today, manufacturing remains vital to our community's vibrancy and financial health. It is, therefore, encouraging to witness the renaissance of manufacturing. If written today, Chuck Frederick's story on manufacturing in Duluth would most certainly have a happy ending.
posted by David Ross
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