Duluth’s population challenge

Duluth Mayor Don Ness has pledged to put the city on a path to increase Duluth’s population to more than 90,000 people by the year 2020. The city has hovered in the 85,000 range the last two censuses amid northeastern Minnesota’s sluggish natural resources economy. Since the late 2000s, however, Duluth has enjoyed more economic stability.

I like this challenge. First off, kudos to Ness for picking an actual number. That puts some skin in the game. I further think the Iron Range region should join with its own goals. We have a people problem in this region. That is, we were built for and thrived at a certain population which has since dropped as the old economy fell. Our towns are now overbuilt but crumbling. Strip malls are taking the place of six or seven downtown businesses which lie empty until the pigeons destroy them. This makes people want to leave. We need to get people to want to live here.

No self-respecting Iron Ranger would give Duluth all the glory on this, so I’m going to instead call this the Sim City Strategy. Just watch where you put those industrial districts and marinas.


  1. With Wisconsin’s turn towards a business friendly administration, if they pull a South Dakota, all the jobs will travel over the Bong bridge.

  2. I see where the new GOP governor of Wisconsin is pushing businesses from Illinois to come to the Badger state. Illinois just raised state tax by 66%. That was Dayton’s pitch to the DFL, raise taxes to fix budget. Wisconsin is cutting spending and lowering taxes. Lets see which states prospers and which states die.

  3. I think it would be interesting to see Range cities come together and make a similar goal. The question is what is the proper agency/channel for facilitating such collaboration? What can citizens doe to encourage such collaboration and vision?

  4. It would be even more interesting to see Ness take actual actions that would result in increased population. Job friendly policies would be a pleasant break with the past.

  5. The IRRRB could pay all or a portion of the property taxes for new businesses. They could help finance buildings or machinery with a lower interest and better terms than a bank, for new companies. If the IRRRB could put aside partisan politics and brainstorm with Range business people I’m positive they could come up with ideas that would help with bringing new jobs to area. K Edwards

  6. I would love to see the demographic data for Duluth – a graph of the population by ages – for now and for 10 and 20 years ago.

    I can’t decide whether Duluth is a city with an aging population because young people keep outmigrating, or whether it is getting younger population because more older people move south.

    Those data might help predict whether the city can reach 90K in 10 more years.

  7. I would also like to see that graph. I am waiting for more specific data from the 2010 census. I’ve talked to the state demographer and he showed me how “persons per household” is actually your vital community health stat. Numbers like 2.1 or 2.2 indicate a lot of retirees or people whose kids have left for college. 2.5 to 3 indicates a fairly health community. I’d have to look up Duluth’s numbers, but the central towns of the Iron Range run around 2.15.

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