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August usually finds builders bustling to make the most of the Northland's short summer, but Michelle LeBeau, executive director of Women in Construction, has been laying off crew members in Duluth. As of the past week, LeBeau had sent eight workers home and was preparing to let go as many as four more. The firm has plenty of work. That's not the problem. What Women in Construction needs is building permits. On Friday, LeBeau finally obtained a building permit for which she had submitted plans July 16.
You can add a looming pilot shortage to the laundry list of challenges facing U.S. airlines. Unless the nation starts churning out more commercial pilots, airlines could confront a shortfall of 30,000 qualified cockpit positions by 2017. That's according to a preliminary report issued recently by Fltops.com, an online information service for active and aspiring professional pilots.
Many of the Twin Ports' docks are beginning to show their age and soon will need to be repaired or even replaced, according to Chad Scott, a principal partner of AMI Consulting Engineers, a Duluth firm that specializes in assessing marine structures. "Some of the facilities are pretty rickety and they're getting close to needing to be closed because they're so unstable," he said. The cost of fixing the problem is daunting.
Droves of Canadians have been crossing the border lately in hopes of driving home with a new car. And the growing number of Canadians arriving in U.S. showrooms spells opportunity for many of the Northland's automotive dealers. By all indications, 2007 will go down as a record year for Canadian imports of cars purchased in the United States.
Most of the new homes installed at Zenith Terrace -- Duluth's largest manufactured home park -- have escaped city building inspectors' notice in recent years. Dozens of homes have been set down in the park without required permits or inspections during the past decade. Duluth Building Official Duane Lasley said his thinly-stretched staff was unaware of the unauthorized activity until recently.
Hardly anyone likes paying upwards of $3 per gallon at the gas pump, but high oil prices are stimulating at least one part of the Twin Ports' economy. In 17 years on the job, Gary Nicholson, president of Lake Superior Warehousing Co., can remember no year busier than the current one.
There's little relief in sight for oil prices, according to Kevin M. Wilson, vice president and financial consultant for National Bank of Commerce. Wilson worked in the oil industry before his career in banking/investing and cites several factors that probably will keep fuel prices trending upward. He pointed to ongoing trade, production and political issues that continue to plague some of the world's largest oil producers, namely Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nigeria. Wilson also noted that many of the world's largest and most accessible oil reserves already have been exploited.
Joe and Miranda Durbin of Duluth are living a fantasy. Quite literally. The two run their business -- a fantasy game Web site called Horse Isle -- from the back of a 30-year-old RV. Tuesday found the Durbins in Bellingham, Wash., still on the front end of a cross-country honeymoon road trip. They left Duluth after their June 3 wedding reception, with a plan to see the nation together. But that didn't mean abandoning the fledgling business they had launched a month earlier.
Those who dream of owning a Cirrus aircraft but lack the financial resources to buy one received some welcome news Monday. At the AirVenture airshow in Oshkosh, Wis., Cirrus Design Corp. announced it will work with a German company to produce a two-seater about half the price of the cheapest airplane in its current line.
You might suppose that a 125-year-old company already would have seen its brightest days. But Tom Sega, Duluth Pack's new president, begs to differ. Duluth Pack rang up almost $5 million in sales last year, but Sega said he believes Duluth Pack has just begun to scratch the surface of the national market for its products. He foresees growing the company's revenues by about 20 percent during Duluth Pack's 125 year of business. Sega joined Duluth Pack in April with plans to not only lead the company but to take an ownership stake in the business.