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Dick Palmer: Planning process could be Duluth's turning point

Duluth's comprehensive plan, now underway, could be the turning point in Duluth's future. In fact, our fair city, in reality, is at the crossroads, and it is going to take some serious soul-searching to focus on realistic and manageable goals.

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Duluth's comprehensive plan, now underway, could be the turning point in Duluth's future. In fact, our fair city, in reality, is at the crossroads, and it is going to take some serious soul-searching to focus on realistic and manageable goals.
An impressive 300 rugged citizens attended the initial presentation by SmithGroup JJR Associates in the DECC Ballroom, and thus the nucleus for positive thinking established itself amid the snow and difficult driving conditions. This, indeed, is a positive start to a long and tedious process.
At stake, as mentioned earlier, is Duluth's future, and I could not put it more bluntly. The curtain will soon be drawn on those who continue to promote "free" government handouts to preserve economic stability. These are short-term finger-in-the-dike efforts, but if local business resourcefulness cannot sustain itself by remaining competitive in an ever-challenging world market, Duluth will certainly continue to decline in population and ultimately face a disaster.
The issues on the table need a thorough review. With JJR running interference using its planning expertise and long-range ingenuity to define the needs vs. the wants, the decision-making process will require many in our community to step back, take a deep breath, and recognize the seriousness of all this.
Looking at the big picture, we see a city well-situated and well-defined. We have a major opportunity to promote our waterfront for both commercial and recreational activities. We have a scenic and historic advantage over many other cities that are also facing the reality of a changing world.
Duluth has a fine medical campus with three hospitals, several clinics and a university two-year medical program. The UMD program has a major goal to influence primary care doctors to remain in our area, with the assurance that they, too, can benefit from the quality of life that is difficult to beat elsewhere. Our higher educational facilities are well known for their excellence, and UMD, in particular, is bulging at the seams.
Recreational diversity is commonplace here, and the cultural opportunities are numerous. So what's the problem?
We have witnessed a continual decline in our industrial and commercial base, and with the continuing decline in mining on the Iron Range, many Duluth businesses are feeling the pinch as well as are Iron Range communities. Throughout northeastern Minnesota, population decreases are adversely affecting our opportunities and seriously affecting our tax base. We need some new ideas and a positive interest in change.
That's where we are today, and the new planning process just might bail us out. It will take courage and a willingness to seek solutions with an open mind.
Are we up to the challenge?
Dick Palmer is the former editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 729-6470 or by e-mail at RPalmer341@aol.com .

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