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City’s development process is getting better

This past year, the Chamber endeavored to serve as a more effective advocate for the business community by more fully understanding the experiences developers encounter when they move projects through the City of Duluth’s Planning & Construction Services Department. We accomplished this goal by interviewing developers who recently submitted and shepherded building and expansion projects through the city’s approval, licensing and inspection processes. The individuals we interviewed were well-established and experienced developers.

We also set out to provide Mayor Don Ness with the feedback and the insight we gained from the interviews. Our hope was that Mayor Ness would use this information to continue his efforts to enhance the City’s approval, licensing and inspection processes. There is good news to share.

The Chamber’s leadership recently met with Mayor Ness and his team and conveyed specific detail that will enable Mayor Ness to champion additional positive change within City Hall. The meeting was encouraging.

Mayor Ness and his team actively engaged in a spirited review of our findings. They indicated a willingness to fully consider the recommendations we shared. I am optimistic that our interaction will result in a more positive experience for developers seeking to move projects through City Hall.

It is important to point out that Mayor Ness’ administration initiated efforts to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the Planning & Construction Services Department long before our recent meeting. The developers we interviewed recognized and acknowledged the noticeable customer service improvements that have recently been apparent within the department. The city’s latest investment in technological enhancements have greatly improved the process. Department personnel are increasingly being viewed as partners in moving potential developments through the approval process.

Fortunately, there is an ideal opportunity to more fully engage developers in driving improvement within the Planning & Construction Services Department. 2015 will be the five-year anniversary of the 2010 implementation of the City’s Unified Development Code. This is a timely opportunity to complete a five-year status evaluation of the code. As well, 2016 will be the 10-year anniversary of the 2006 implementation of the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. This affords the City a parallel opportunity to complete a 10-year status evaluation of the plan.

The Chamber’s leadership stands prepared to assist Mayor Ness’ team in bringing business community members to these suggested evaluation initiatives. We are motivated to keep the Mayor’s improvement efforts moving forward. After all, his success is our success.

David Ross is the president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce.Contact him at 740-3751 or

David Ross

David Ross is the president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at 740-3751.