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Chamber President's View: In Duluth, opportunity knocking as loudly as ever

From the column: "For too long our community has been unwelcoming, causing pain for families and workforce shortages for businesses."

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2020 News Tribune file photo / Construction workers move through the second floor of the Essentia Health Vision Northland project in Duluth. Investment in Duluth’s medical district is expected to spur even more development and redevelopment.
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The Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce is proud to be one of the state’s largest chambers, serving more than 1,000 members. Our footprint in Northeastern Minnesota allows us to be an influential regional chamber advocating for investments and policies that benefit our economy and community. Our chamber is award-winning, industry-recognized, and accredited. We have an amazing array of programs and events that benefit everyone from small-business owners to leaders in our largest sectors. By industry standard, we are considered a “fully built” chamber.

Yet, to our board of directors, our staff, and to me, it was clear that we could — and should — be doing more in support of our members.

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Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

In 2023, we will be operating with a new strategic framework that defines our scope of work into three foundational pillars: business conditions, economic development, and community progress. Under each, we will have added focus on policy and advocacy for our businesses and community.

Business conditions must be primed for what could be an incredible two years of development. Following the expansion of the medical district, the potential move of the University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth Campus, investments in advanced aviation, retail expansion, high demand in hospitality, manufacturing growth, our world-class port, and all supporting industries, we must find ways to expedite housing and child care to meet workforce demands. To do this, we continue to work with the city to improve permitting, construction services, and the inspection process. Further, we know we need tax-base growth to provide needed relief to property taxpayers in our area.

We must start thinking bigger when we evaluate economic development for the Duluth region. Natural beauty and amenities, a diverse local economy, and an adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit all converge in Duluth to bring unparalleled opportunity.

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There is palpable energy around the new leaders and entrepreneurs our city has recently welcomed. The chamber is proud to have a seat on the economic-development coalition, as well as on the city’s economic-development audit. This type of coordinated and aggressive economic development is key to the future of tax-base growth and must be prioritized — both to capitalize on opportunities and to address challenges.

Community progress is an area where the chamber and the business community must be agents of change. For too long our community has been unwelcoming, causing pain for families and workforce shortages for businesses. In 2023, you will see the chamber amplifying our efforts to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will continue to provide additional Commitment to Change events and resources. You will see an intentional shift in our programming to ensure the voices at the table are reflecting the leadership and diversity of this region. We are very excited to now have a charitable foundation alongside our chamber to help support these efforts.

A final area where you will see expanded effort is in our policy and advocacy work. We realize we need to be the voice of businesses and the community at the local, state, and federal levels. To further this, we now have a seat on the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Executives Board, representing the northern half of Minnesota. This seat will allow us to have more influence over statewide policy decisions. Now more than ever, you will see the chamber representing the best interests of our region.

Opportunity is knocking as loudly as it ever has for our area. It is time to answer that call and become the best version of Duluth and Northeastern Minnesota we can.

Matt Baumgartner is president of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce . He wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.

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Matt Baumgartner

YEAR-AHEAD SERIES
The News Tribune Opinion page again this year asked community leaders and area experts to gaze into a crystal ball and share what 2023 might bring. This column is part of that series.
Sunday, Dec. 25 — Northland economy
Monday, Dec. 26 — Business
Tuesday, Dec. 27 — Tourism
Wednesday, Dec. 28 — City of Duluth
Thursday, Dec. 29 — St. Louis County
Friday, Dec. 30 — Duluth public schools
Saturday, Dec. 31 — Minnesota Legislature
Sunday, Jan. 1 — Downtown Duluth
Monday, Jan. 2 — Public safety
Tuesday, Jan. 3 — D.C.

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