Duluth’s economic rebirth among year’s top stories

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?

Photo: My boys play in Canal Park during our summer vacation to the Zenith City.


  1. Great post Aaron. Thanks.

    The Range could be heading in a completely different direction. Sadly, it is not. Rust Belt Chic posted a great essay. It is probably the best essay I read in a long time. It should be describing the Iron Range as well as the cities it names. However, as things are currently, it is explaining a lot of negative factors that exist on the Range. The Range seems to be choosing to not take part in all of the great work the essay discusses. That great work is happening all over America.

    I am not all technological and stuff. I don’t know how to post links and all that. I don’t even do Facebook, ha! I’m just going to paste the address here. If it shows up as a link, great. If not, great. I just hope this essay gets shared all over because it is so perfect in relation to the Range.



  2. First of all, how I have gone this long not knowing about the existence of a publication called “Rust Belt Chic?” Wow, well consider that corrected now.

    Fantastic find. I’ll share it on the blog because you’re exactly right about it.

    I think the reason Duluth is doing better than the Range is, simply, that it’s just slightly bigger and inherently unified. If 1% have the courage to do something, in Duluth that’s a few hundred people — a moveable force. On the Range, that’s a few per town, at best, and they are isolated.

  3. Thanks Aaron. Have a good day…

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