Duluth Mayor unveils economic development focus

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Duluth is an economic development leader, Mayor Emily Larson said Tuesday in her annual State of the City address.

“Last year we had a record number of building permits and a half billion dollars of investment – more than double the previous year and the third year of record investment in a row,” she said. “Major businesses are making new private investment bets on Duluth. From Costco to ST Paper to Cirrus and beyond. These are businesses that chose Duluth. And we’ve got their back.”

The city is fielding constant new inquiries about investing in Duluth, the mayor said in her speech, which also addressed public safety, sustainability and connectivity.

“Today, in Duluth, a project needs to be more than shovel ready, it needs to be shovel worthy,” Larson continued. “This holistic view of economic development is working. When you survey actual businesses about what they look for in a community they seldom say fewer public services or benefits. Instead, they talk about solid infrastructure, a reliable and qualified workforce, housing, access to childcare, transportation and energy, and high on the list – safe neighborhoods and a great quality of life. These are the core ingredients of economic development we’ve focused on.”

The city has invested heavily in updating Duluth’s key infrastructure and will continue to do so, she said. 

“Street reconstruction now averages 14 miles per year, up from 2 miles a year when I took office. We’re investing in stormwater management and replacing our 100-year-old water mains to ensure reliable and clean drinking water,” Larson said, noting:

The city is committed to getting the lead out of pipes so all kids can thrive.

The Lakewalk has been made more resilient, accessible, beautiful and durable than ever.

The city is building everything with climate adaptation and climate change in mind.

Addressing Duluth’s housing shortage, Larson noted, “Since taking office, my administration has added a total 1,500 new housing units. With support from the Duluth City Council, we’ve established a $4 million Housing Trust Fund to help private sector developers rehab or construct new affordable housing. At the same time, we announced a new private equity fund to secure private sector money for new housing.” More information will be released in the next few weeks.

“We have dedicated $19 million dollars from the federal ‘rescue plan’ to build 358 new affordable units and rehab and preserve 36 more.”

She acknowledged the city must do more to improve its permitting

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