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Two Harbors mayor set up company for underwater hotel

The document found by the News Tribune raises new questions over his involvement in the project.

A section of the "8th Wonder of Lake Superior LLC" articles of organization
A section of the "8th Wonder of Lake Superior LLC" articles of organization filed with the Minnesota Secretary of State how Two Harbors Mayor Chris Swanson organized the company.
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DULUTH — Two Harbors Mayor Chris Swanson called the underwater hotel he was planning “The Eighth Wonder on Lake Superior,” but repeatedly said he had no financial interest in the project.

And yet, the News Tribune has found that Swanson organized a company Nov. 17, 2021, called “8th Wonder on Lake Superior LLC,” which shares a Two Harbors mailing address with at least two of his other companies, raising new questions over his involvement in the project.

Being listed as an “organizer” on a limited liability company’s articles of organization in Minnesota does not prove financial interest; however, it’s an unusual role for an elected official to play when courting a potential economic development project for the city.

Swanson has not responded to multiple requests for comment about the document. He previously said that city policy bars him from speaking with the News Tribune.

Swanson does not appear on The Eighth Wonder on Lake Superior LLC’s public-facing page on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s business filings website. But he does appear as the company’s organizer on the articles of organization that the public can purchase.

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Swanson’s connection to the LLC was found using opencorporates.com , which pulls data in from various publicly available sources, some of which may not show up in results in a traditional search engine like Google. It was then confirmed through the News Tribune’s own purchase of the Secretary of State’s records.

The LLC’s public-facing page on the Secretary of State’s website lists the registered agent as Registered Agents Inc. and its registered office address as 202 N. Cedar Ave. Suite #1, Owatonna, MN 55060. Nearly 3,700 active and inactive companies are registered to that address, according to data from Open Corporates.

Minnesota Registered Agent Services LLC, which is based out of that address, did not respond to a voicemail from the News Tribune. On its website , it says it can serve as a business’ registered agent for $49 per year and “will help ensure that your company stays in compliance with the State of Minnesota.”

However, such registered agent services can be used to form companies with a level of anonymity.

The 8th Wonder on Lake Superior LLC's mailing address, 629 Seventh Ave., Suite 7, Two Harbors, MN 55616, is also the home to several of Swanson's other businesses, such as digital marketing company PureDriven and entrepreneur coaching service Garage Starts. He serves as the CEO of both of those businesses, which are among eight Swanson-connected businesses currently being looked into by the Minnesota State Auditor .

Swanson’s efforts to bring an underwater hotel caused the Two Harbors City Council to send the matter to the Minnesota Attorney General’s office last month , but the office ultimately said an opinion was unnecessary because there was no contract proposed to the city and there was no proof of Swanson having a financial stake in the project.

In an email to the News Tribune, the Attorney General’s Office did not directly respond to News Tribune’s questions on whether it was aware of Swanson's role in organizing The Eighth Wonder on Lake Superior LLC and whether knowledge of the role would have influenced its earlier decision.

Read about how this story was produced.

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jlovrien@duluthnews.com or 218-723-5332.
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