David's Blog

Friday, April 03, 2015

A Young Professional's Paradise

The year was 1978. I had recently earned my college degree and was hoping to begin my career in my beloved hometown of Duluth. Unfortunately for my contemporaries and me, Duluth was down and out.

Unemployment was 16%, which was far higher than the national rate of unemployment and higher than the Minnesota rate. Duluth was identified, nationally, as one of the ten most distressed cities in America.

U.S. Steel closed its doors in 1971, heralding an end to a once robust manufacturing era in Duluth. Diamond Tool closed. Other smokestack industries in Duluth's western neighborhoods struggled and soon followed U.S. Steel out of Duluth. 14,000 jobs were lost when local manufacturing companies quit building ships in the Port.

Just when our good town was on its knees, our Air Force Air Base closed. Iron ore mines, north of Duluth, went dark and cold as they shuttered the windows and turned off the power. The closing of the mines sent shock waves through the shipping, trucking and railroad industries.

Our harbor became a place where Great Lakes ore boats came home to idle or to be scrapped. Hundreds of railroad boxcars were left, dormant, to rust in Duluth's rail yards.

Downtown stores closed. The store lights were turned off. Windows were papered over or boarded up to hide from view the darkness, dampness and the despair that lingered in those vacant shops.

I hope that I am making it plain: Duluth was broken and dispirited. This was my beloved city when I was twenty-one years of age.

Contrast that bleakness to the promise and the possibilities that welcome young adults to Duluth in 2015. Our unemployment rate is at a record low, lower than the national and state averages. Opportunity abounds. Positive national attention is being lavished upon our beloved community.

Duluth is America's Best Outside Place to Live, according to Outside Magazine. The City of Duluth is the 15th Fastest Growing Municipal Economy in America (U.S. Census Bureau). Forbes Magazine listed Duluth as One of the Best Places for Business and Careers. Travel & Leisure Magazine ranked Duluth #20 among the 40 Best College Towns. Money Magazine ranked Duluth among the Top 5 Small Cities for Living. Duluth is one of the Top 10 Places to Raise an Outdoor Kid, according to Backpacker Magazine.

There is a powerful, objective indication of just how popular Duluth is becoming among young professional. According to the most recent information from the Census Bureau, the 25 to 34-year-old demographic in Duluth has grown by 25% in the last five years. The Chamber's young professional group, Fuse Duluth, is enjoyed exponential growth. One thing is increasing clear: Duluth is fast becoming the strong choice as a place to call home for young persons and for their families.

The 1970's were a dark time for Duluth. Yet, in that dark time, we began to see how important tourism was to our community's financial recovery. We began to see how valuable being on the shores of the Greatest of the Great Lakes was to promoting our Zenith City. We began to embrace college students. We embraced the perfect size that is Duluth, not too big and not too small. We came to better understand the power of place and the call to community.

Young professionals are fortunate to be working and living in Duluth. So, too, are the rest of us.

In support,

David Signature

David Ross, President & CEO  

posted by David Ross at


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