20 Under 40: Kate Ferguson, 37, Duluth and Makinen

Director of trade and business development for Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

Kate Ferguson web.jpg
Kate Ferguson

What do you do? (job, community involvement): I am the director of trade and business development for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. In that role, I advocate for industry, manufacturing, transportation and port-facing businesses. I also track market and commodity trends, help businesses grow and expand by helping find supply chain solutions, and act as a convener and active board member for several groups.

My second position is as a certified firefighter with the Colvin Township Volunteer Fire Department. It is a pleasure to serve my community in an active and meaningful way. Thank you to all first responders!

What is important to you? My relationships are most important to me. My families, trusted friends, Great Lakes business folks, my partner and doggies mean the most. As a child of an open adoption, I strive to ensure that both my family and my birth family know how thankful I am every day for their love and support. Adoption is an amazing gift that gave me a big brother, amazing parents and the best shot at life! Now, living 500-plus miles away from my families, I’ve worked hard to create a circle of trust with people of differing backgrounds.

Compassion, support, positivity and usually a ski, hockey game, run or triathlon really strengthen relationships with my friends and family. My work is a passion and the Great Lakes are my home. Relationships with businesses in, on, and around the lakes are important and I am energized by the Great Lakes market and maritime community that welcomed me into the fold 15-plus years ago.

Last, but definitely not least, my partner and our two crazy dogs keep me grounded. The personalities in our home complement one other, which allows me the down time that this introverted extrovert needs. And the two crazy dogs keep us hiking, running and boating. The dogs even climb the pontoon ladder, one with his toy so as to get another launch off the bow!


In addition to building and maintaining these relationships, I’m also committed to encouraging students and youth to explore the transportation industry for a great career, especially women and minorities. Transportation, like many other professions, is historically a white male-dominated industry. I regularly work with our local universities to encourage and welcome anyone into the field of supply chain logistics and transportation. I try to be accessible for any student wanting to learn more about the field or connect outside the classroom. I especially focus my time on ensuring women feel supported in the maritime industry, as, based on an event I recently attended, we still have a long way to go.

How do you spend your free time? I sometimes refer to myself as “over-active.” When not at the fire hall, my free time is spent doing an abundance of activities. In the great outdoors, I love hockey, soccer, fishing, boating, skijoring, etc.

I also love to keep my mind and hands busy, so a lot of my time is devoted to learning a skill and then using it. For instance, I recently worked with several of my talented friends to build an addition on my house. Thanks to their tutelage and a lot of research, I now really enjoy framing, running electrical, laying floors, installing windows, building decks, etc. Fun fact: I was voted most mechanically inclined female my senior year of high school, which I always thought was odd, but it has turned out to be a huge asset for me. I’m always looking for projects and love to learn skills to build things with my hands.

From nominator: "Kate is wicked smart, cares deeply and works tirelessly to help others. She gives without asking in return. She is determined like nobody I have ever seen. She is positive and happy. She is a leader and I also consider her my friend.

"To honor Kate's determination and illustrate the same, I urge you to choose her as a very deserving recipient of this award. If you do not, I will model Kate's determination and drive by submitting a nomination every year until she is awarded the '20 Under 40' award. Even after she is 40." — Patrick Huston

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