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Aviation industry brings a multiplier effect to Duluth economy

Duluth Chamber Ambassador Rhonda Corey visits with Mike Lundstrom after he gave a presentation on the importance of the aviation industry to Duluth's Economy. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)

Duluth and the surrounding areas need to nurture the aviation sector because it has a big impact on local economy.

That's according to Mike Lundstrom, chairman of the Northern Aero Alliance, speaking at this month's Duluth Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Luncheon about the impact of the aviation industry locally. He qualified it by saying he's never been a pilot nor otherwise involved in aviation.

"When I first took my job at the Hermantown Chamber in 2007, I looked around and asked myself, 'Where can I spend my time that will have the greatest amount of impact concerning the business community and the greater community?'"

Lundstrom then projected a photograph of Willie Sutton, a bank robber in the 1920s and '30s, onto a screen.

"I really have one person to blame for this. Willie Sutton. Do you remember his famous quote? 'Go where the money is.'

"What I've learned over the years that it is difficult to be in business if you are a pessimist," he said, adding that optimists mixed with realists tend to make good business people, but that the best business people are opportunists.

Lundstrom said a 2007 study by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development showed the aviation industry had a $1.3 billion impact on the area. After the economic recession came in 2008, the area aviation concerns got together and formed Northern Aero Alliance. More than 30 belong, including Cirrus, Kestral Aircraft, 148th Fighter Wing, Greystar Electronics, SCS Interiors and HydroSolutions of Duluth and Lake Superior College. Lundstrom and Don Monaco of Monaco Air are the co-chairmen.

Lundstrom cited economists' multiplier effect that says for every one job you create, 2.5 are added to the community.

"We are looking at the potential of over 3,900 jobs being added in the Twin Ports economy," Lundstrom said.

His message was that if the community takes care of the aviation industry, the industry will take care of the community's economy.

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at