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Dick Palmer: The Economic Summit: The Northland needs a change of attitude

Today could be a beginning ... or more of the same. Either way, Mayor Gary Doty's major economic summit is not something to take lightly. A meeting of the minds always generates interest, and this summit, hopefully, will set a new pattern and dir...

Today could be a beginning ... or more of the same. Either way, Mayor Gary Doty's major economic summit is not something to take lightly. A meeting of the minds always generates interest, and this summit, hopefully, will set a new pattern and direction and, most importantly, some clear thinking.
Let's face some facts here. For the past 50 years or so, Duluth's economy slid into a gradual tailspin, and few leaders were willing to pick up the fragmented pieces and attempt to patch up the holes in the dike. Duluth's declining economy, shaped in part with diminishing population figures, became a red alert of the most serious implications. And yet we experienced one economic and social battle after another, as business and labor leaders dug in against each other. A war of words ensued rather than a united effort to look beyond personal pride and depressive logic.
We were constantly at war with each other, while our neighbors quietly moved on building a consensus of logic and reality. Look around, Budgeteer readers. Northern Minnesota industrial communities are dying on the vine, while the rest of the state and nation continues to grow. Surely it shouldn't be that difficult to figure out.
Some are expounding that Duluth's population decline has stopped and is now moving in the right direction. "Nonsense" is the only word I have for that explanation. As our industrial, commercial and small business efforts continue to decline, some "experts" have found new soft plugs for the dike. They are called nonprofits and other government supported entities. Indeed, government is growing in Duluth, and this is not a good sign.
Our society today seems to want more for less. Government growth has been triggered somewhat by public apathy, which is not the ingredient that built our wonderful country in the first place. Americans are wonderful people. We enjoy the freedoms provided by our ancestors, and we are anxious to explore new things and new ideas. Where we are falling down on the job is the fact that we expect others to lead the way. We let politicians, business tycoons and labor leaders do all the thinking. That's a shame.
I once had a steel executive wave his personal check in front of my nose with this explanation: "Let labor flex its muscles. I've got the checkbook." I've witnessed labor organizers using the same threatening tactics. Here in northern Minnesota, such antics are a way of life.
We need a change of attitude, especially a realization that business and labor can and must co-exist, and government principals should keep their mouths shut and their eyes open. That's the major ingredient in area growth.

Dick Palmer is the former editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 723-1207 or by e-mail at rpalmer@duluth.com .

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