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For 25 years straight, Northland entrepreneurs have been honored for their accomplishments through the Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Award program. But that string will be broken in 2018. "It was extremely difficult for us to make this decision," said Elaine Hansen, director of the University of Minnesota Duluth's Center for Economic Development, which has organized and judged the annual award program.
After threatening to withhold support for a requested half-percent increase in the local sales tax, the leadership of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce voted Monday to endorse the tax as a mechanism to fund street improvements. Chamber President and CEO David Ross had earlier suggested that the city's business community would not back the sales tax request unless the city put the brakes on a proposed ordinance that would require local employers to provide a paid-time-off benefit for workers dealing with illness or other family crises.
When the restored NorShor Theatre officially reopens its doors to the public Thursday, it will mark the completion of an arduous journey. That odyssey began in 2010, at a time when the once-stately downtown Duluth theater had devolved into a run-down strip club. In a bold gamble, former Mayor Don Ness' administration struck a deal with the building's owner, Eric Ringsred, to purchase the theater and associated properties. The Duluth Economic Development Authority would pay $2.6 million for the NorShor Theatre, an annex and the adjacent Temple Opera Building.
A condemned building in Duluth's Lincoln Park neighborhood soon will be brought back to life and repurposed as a home for community service workers. The building at 2114 W. Third St. recently was donated to Ecolibrium3, a local community action agency, with the aim of converting it into low-cost cooperative housing for AmeriCorps members. Built in 1910, the structure once was home to a hearing-aid shop with an upstairs apartment, but it has stood vacant for about the past decade, according to Jodi Slick, Ecolibrium3's CEO and founder.
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson and her team are busily preparing their game plan for the coming legislative session, which begins Feb. 20. Earlier this week, she shared her top priorities with the Duluth City Council. Sales tax Larson's top ask is for the state to authorize Duluth to increase its sales tax by 0.5 percent. If approved, that tax would generate an estimated $7 million annually, with those funds dedicated solely to repair and improve local roads.
Duluth came up short in its quest to win the Georgetown University Energy Prize. But the city's involvement in the national energy conservation competition still has yielded substantial benefits, according to Jodi Slick, founder and CEO of Ecolibrium3, a local community action agency.
Seats were hard to come by in the Duluth City Council chambers Monday night, forcing many people to stand and causing some of the crowd to spill into the hallway. But the subject most people wanted to talk about — a proposed ordinance that would restrict local sales of flavored tobacco products to adults-only smoke shops — won't be ready for council consideration until Feb. 12.
Local government units stand to forgo more than $149 million in tax collections over the life of Duluth's 19 currently active tax-increment financing districts. That may sound like a ton of money, but Heather Rand, Duluth's business development director, contends the city is making relatively conservative use of this economic development tool these days.
The Duluth City Council will take up a resolution Monday night calling on city administration to "pursue a thoughtful plan to sell, lease or otherwise privatize all or part of Lester Park and Enger Park golf courses." The proposed resolution, introduced by 5th District Councilor Jay Fosle, notes that both of the municipal golf courses lost money last year and are in need of extensive and expensive capital improvements. Last year, the courses operated at a combined loss of $135,000. To date, the Lester and Enger courses have amassed about $2.2 million in operating debt.
Duluth may be poised to spend upwards of $1.8 million on renovations to the interior of its City Hall. On Monday, the Duluth City Council is expected to take up a resolution that could authorize city staff to enter into a contract with the lowest bidder for the project: Gardner Builders LLC, a Minneapolis-based general contractor with offices in Duluth. Plans call for the 90-year-old seat of city government to undergo three primary types of improvements: