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Syndicate worries over aging population

Responding to what it believes could be a "demographic crisis," a Twin Ports group is working to change the area's image and attract new residents. A declining population in the 25- to 34-year-old range has prompted the Bridge Syndicate to try an...

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Responding to what it believes could be a "demographic crisis," a Twin Ports group is working to change the area's image and attract new residents.
A declining population in the 25- to 34-year-old range has prompted the Bridge Syndicate to try and make a difference. The organization's mission is to increase the area's civic, cultural and economic opportunities.
It hopes that effort will help stem the outmigration of young residents and attract new families. The group was formed in the spring of 2000 and currently has more than 300 members.
Members want to raise public awareness of demographic challenges confronting Duluth based on recent census data. It views the population imbalance as a potential threat to the area's quality of life.
"The future of our community depends on how we react to that," said Donny Ness, a Duluth city councilor and organization co-founder.
Pointing out the age shift and population decline in St. Louis County, he said, "this is no surprise to anyone. We are already an elderly community. It is our opinion that we are on the verge of a demographic crisis."
Ness displayed state data which projects a sharp climb in elderly residents in the Arrowhead Region with a corresponding decrease in younger age groups.
"Student enrollment in Duluth has been declining steadily for the past decade," said member Becca Moen. "More neighborhood schools will close as enrollment declines."
Member Krista Knutson said part of the cause was that economic opportunities here aren't broad enough, especially in technology and the arts.
"We feel that access to existing opportunities could be better," she said. "... Housing is an issue of concern for many young families. Cultural and social activities are lacking.
"We'd like to work toward creating a better atmosphere."
"We would like to put out a challenge to the community," said Ness. "The Bridge Syndicate is committed to raising public awareness in three areas."
He said the group wants to promote the idea of a downtown arts district, develop economic opportunities by connecting higher education and business and use technology as a welcoming tool.
"It will take a commitment from the entire community to solve the problem," Ness said. "We must be as serious about attracting young families as we are about attracting tourists."

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