One of the big northern Minnesota stories this year has to be the economic revitalization of Duluth. Seat of the northern Minnesota industrial frontier, Duluth long languished with its Iron Range brethren in economic dependence on a handful of volatile natural resource industries. This year, decades of efforts to diversify and attract residents and visitors appear to be paying off.
Dan Kraker posted this story for Minnesota Public Radio:
From this, of course, must come the obvious thought: Why can’t the Iron Range do the same? Well, we don’t have the singular attraction of Lake Superior. Our population is spread over a dozen small towns along a 135-mile highway/ore formation in the woods, each city with parochial interests and small-ball political ambitions. Our dependence on mining was always much greater than Duluth’s, making it difficult to make the leap to other ideas.
But the road map is right there for Range leaders. Make a sustained, long-term effort to beautify your place, self-generate entrepreneurship, attract new people and retain young people. We simply must break down the political barriers in our way, which — frankly — aren’t as big as many think. We’ll have to overrule the two or three people in every small town who always seem to get “the last say to nay say.” We’ll have to stop thinking about our parents’ battles, our own present disinterest in additional work and fear of change, and focus on what would make the place better for a new generation.
Hell, I’m up for it. Beats watching the Irongate Mall crumble in on itself over the next 40 years, am I right?