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Dick Palmer: Duluth's future success achieved one step at a time

The design of a comprehensive plan for the city of Duluth is more than a phrase -- it is the future. With that in mind, obtaining the services of a professional designer, coupled with initial direction from the city's administrative staff, is the...

The design of a comprehensive plan for the city of Duluth is more than a phrase -- it is the future. With that in mind, obtaining the services of a professional designer, coupled with initial direction from the city's administrative staff, is the first step in a series of steps to take that will ultimately culminate with a long-term plan that citizens of this city can follow with enthusiastic energy.
Note, I said first step. An effort now by some members of the City Council to jump into the initial phase of the comprehensive plan represents shortsightedness, or, as it would appear, an attempt to meddle in the administrative branch of city government. A city charter review may be in order here.
Duluth surely needs a comprehensive plan as we begin the 21st century. Just 100 years ago, Duluth was one of the fastest growing industrial communities in the Midwest. In fact, Duluth was dubbed the Pittsburgh of the Northwest, and rightly so.
Duluth grew from a village status to a city of well over 100,000 people, and then something happened. Economic conditions, new technology and changing needs reduced Duluth's ability to compete, and suddenly, we were in trouble.
A comprehensive plan designed nearly 50 years ago was too little, too late. If it weren't for local entrepreneurs who dearly loved this community and continue to invest in its future, Duluth could well have dried up period, and would be the stepping off station today for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area or some other tourist attraction far from the shores of Gitchie Gummi.
I bring this out because planning for the future requires professional guidance. There is no doubt that Duluth is ideally situated at the head of the Great Lakes, with untold water-related opportunities to explore and develop. Duluth needs to diversify its economic base to provide new job opportunities to solve an old problem, the retention of its young people.
Duluth has already demonstrated its attractiveness in the tourism industry. But is that enough? What are our assets and liabilities? Those are the types of questions that a professional planner has to incorporate in a long-term plan.
So, ladies and gentlemen of the Council, go slow here, let Mayor Doty and his staff get the ball rolling, and don't downgrade the established Planning Commission.
Patience is golden.
Dick Palmer is the former editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. E-mail him at RPalmer341@aol.com

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