Dear young people: Come to Duluth

When the Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation surveyed young people on why they aren't making Duluth their home, some people said, "the weather."...

When the Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation surveyed young people on why they aren't making Duluth their home, some people said, "the weather."

"Well, there's nothing we can do about that," said Jenny Carey, chair of the foundation's young person's task force.

But what they can do is look at the survey results and determine which suggestions are most viable -- and they are.

In Duluth young people (18-35) comprise about 11 to 12 percent of the population. Compare that to the Twin Cities' 20 percent, and the young adult work force in the Twin Cities is nearly two times as effervescent.

"Young people are the wage earners, the family raisers," said Carey. "The future economic and social vitality of the area relies on them staying."


The task force has been charged with finding out why they aren't. To do so, they interviewed 35 "key informants" including business leaders, college students, young professionals (who have stayed and left) and city officials. The Bridge Syndicate and the Duluth Chamber's Young Professionals group have also played a role.

What's worrisome to Carey about the results are the myths and perceptions of how things are -- compared with the actualities.

For example, many responded that the reasons they leave is a perceived sense of no jobs, poor paying jobs, lack of opportunities, unemployment and difficulty in starting a business.

While some of this is true to an extent, Carey said that 46 percent of Minnesota Power's employees qualify for retirement this year.

"There are huge opportunities with this company." she said.

Other reasons for departure include: wanting a change of scenery; being forced to leave, but wanting to come back; hard to break into the tight-knit communities; seeking more culture, night life and restaurants; the area feels old and stagnant; scared to be stuck in the region their whole lives; image of Duluth and Superior as drinking towns; the weather; the quality of affordable housing; the disconnect between college and city communities; and many students going back to their hometown after college.

So what now?{IMG2}

Carey said the task force has worked to identify solutions for policy makers and business people to consider.


Suggestions include: maintaining the natural beauty of the area and the quality of life, while embracing change; providing more jobs for economic growth; providing internships, mentoring, job shadowing and networking opportunities; improving the business and government climate; encouraging local educational institutions to take the issue seriously; increasing collaboration; investing in things that appeal to young people; promoting the Twin Ports; maintaining focus on the issue; providing funds for start-ups; making it affordable for people to purchase a home in this region; building a high speed rail; encouraging membership in civic engagement groups; and offering scholarships that encourage retention.

While some suggestions may be difficult to reach, Carey said most of them are doable and don't cost millions of dollars.

Now that the problems have been identified, the foundation is doing its best to court these people. One tool they are using is a postcard highlighting what people outside of the area are missing. The card, featuring the classic Duluth skyline in all its glory, lists nine reasons why young people ought to move to Duluth, with the 10th left blank for personalization. Brenda Sproat plans to send them to her daughters in Washington D.C. "I plan to write 'Because your mom is here and she loves you!'" Sproat said.

The foundation is encouraging people to send these to family and friends for consideration. They are available by calling the Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation at 726-0232.

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