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Chamber President's View: Working together, Duluth can meet business priorities

From the column: "You can feel palpable energy through the collaborative work being done. ... Leaders from across sectors have been finding synergies in working toward solutions that will help us reach our greatest era."

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Matt Baumgartner

We at the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce are optimistic and bullish about what the year ahead holds.

Certainly, challenges remain. The pandemic continues to disrupt businesses and our economy. Workforce, child care, and housing shortages are real. Improving business conditions and economic development opportunities should be prioritized. Advancing equity and inclusion is work that must be carried forward in perpetuity. And providing shelter to the unsheltered and connecting those in need with services while providing safety for our community and businesses is a difficult balance.

Yet, you can feel palpable energy through the collaborative work being done on these issues. Leaders from across sectors have been finding synergies in working toward solutions that will help us reach our greatest era.

Therefore, it seems valuable to provide an early update on the work the chamber has been doing on strategic priorities identified in our 2022 Action Plan. While this list is not comprehensive, it certainly reveals why we are optimistic.

  • Business conditions: We have held meetings with the city of Duluth to discuss opportunities with the construction-service and building-permit process. These meetings have been forward-thinking, educational, productive, and solution-oriented. Big thanks to the mayor and her team for their willingness to engage. With the economic-development demand in Duluth, it will pay big dividends to provide excellent service to those wishing to do business in our area.

  • Workforce: Collaborative efforts are underway with partners such as Elena Foshay with Workforce Development on programs that target the hospitality industry and others; there is hope we could roll out a hospitality program in the spring. Additional collaborative efforts on pathway programs include work with partners like APEX and the Duluth School District. The chamber also has been meeting with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development on statewide workforce initiatives.

  • Duluth’s aircraft-maintenance facility: Chamber Board Chair Dan Fanning, APEX’s Brian Hanson, the Duluth Airport Authority’s Tom Werner, and city leaders have led an effort to find both temporary and long-term tenants for the facility.

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion: Chamber programming and events are being aligned in 2022 to emphasize the business community’s support of this critical initiative. Further, the chamber is working to give a platform to those who are experts in this space.

  • Balancing mental health needs with community safety: We recently participated in the Stepping on Up Research Tour, facilitated by John Cole of Chum, with other city, county, and community leaders. This tour sought to identify solutions that could be replicated in Duluth to address the homeless and housing crises.

  • Child care: We are working with many area partners to identify actionable items to provide solutions to the child care shortage crisis. These actionable items include addressing the fixed and working capital issues child care providers face. Additionally, we will form our 2022 legislative strategies on this issue.

  • Military Affairs Committee: New Chair Jennifer Cady has hit the ground running. Meetings with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber were fruitful in identifying strategies to support our local military branches, including the 148th Fighter Wing. Additional initiatives include support for the educational program STARBASE.

  • Core mission: The 2022 events calendar was intentionally aligned with our strategic priorities. We look forward to seeing you at these events.

We also look forward to engaging with everyone on these strategic priorities. Working together, we can make real progress in addressing our challenges and recognizing our immense opportunities.
Matt Baumgartner is president of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce (duluthchamber.com). He wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.

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