David Ross is the president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at 740-3751.
- Member for
- 3 years 9 months
For 145 years, the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce has served as the voice of business for our area. We are 1,100 members strong. The 22 leaders who serve on our board of directors are chosen to represent our members and advocate on their behalf. On Jan. 28, 2014, our board of directors unanimously passed a resolution to fully support and publicly advocate for the PolyMet Mining initiative.
The Chamber's leadership understands that you are busy. Your life is full. Your calendar is crowded. This is why we set out to provide you timely, concise, well-organized and conveniently located candidate forums. During the past month, the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce combined with the Duluth News Tribune to host four candidate forums. The forums featured candidates for Duluth: mayor, School Board, City Council At Large and City Council district races. They were contained to one hour, held in a beautiful setting at the Duluth Playhouse Theatre and the Underground Theater in the Depot.
We are in the height of Duluth's political calendar. The primary election polling occurred last Tuesday. The general election will be Nov. 3. At this time of year, hardly a day goes by without someone asking me, "Who is the chamber endorsing for mayor?" Their questions afford me an opportunity to inform them that the chamber does not endorse candidates. Rather, we provide opportunities for our members to get to know the candidates and to better understand candidate positions on issues important to our business community.
It is a feeling most Duluthians have experienced. It is the pride and the excitement we feel when we have the privilege of welcoming visitors to our beloved community. We become even more excited when our guests are already delighted to be visiting Duluth and effusive when expressing their love for our community. Last weekend, I had the honor of welcoming to Duluth leaders from the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever organization. These leaders could have met anywhere in our great nation. The organization includes 700 chapters from across the country.
There are eight candidates seeking to become the next great mayor of Duluth. Additionally, there are 21 candidates vying to become either Duluth city councilors or Duluth school district board members. These candidates will bring a robust array of new interests, talents and goals to the political debate and to the positions they seek. The candidates who are elected will have a profound influence on how our beloved community moves forward. The chamber's leadership understands how the relationships we develop with these candidates will be productive if the relationships are based on trust.
One month ago, I embarked on a journey of discovery. I did so after determining the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce would greatly benefit if I met with each individual who announces his or her intent to be a candidate for a local elected position. This includes candidates for the District 709 School Board, Duluth City Council and the mayor of Duluth. My talented colleague, Roger Wedin, director of policy and education for the chamber, joined me in this endeavor. It has been an enlightening and encouraging experience.
As Duluthians, we have reason, well, actually, two reasons to celebrate. First, we can celebrate that Duluth has reversed the three-decade decline in population it experienced from 1970 to 2000. Second, let's celebrate that this stabilization of our population is due, in large part, to an expansion of our minority population. Duluth's growth parallels that of other Minnesota metropolitan communities which have also grown as a result of their increasing minority populations.
At a recent Greater Downtown Council gathering, I had the opportunity and honor to share my optimism for Duluth with an audience of 60 community leaders. Apparently I was being too effusive regarding the many reasons to celebrate the exciting things occurring within our beloved community. Evidently, my boosterish remarks were expected and too pedestrian. The event moderator, my friend and colleague Steve Greenfield, had heard enough of my shameless promotion of Duluth.
The year was 1978. I had recently earned my college degree and hoped to begin my career in my beloved hometown of Duluth. Unfortunately for my contemporaries and me, Duluth was down and out. Unemployment was 16 percent, far higher than the national rate and higher than the Minnesota rate. Duluth was identified, nationally, as one of the 10 most-distressed cities in America. U.S. Steel closed its doors in 1971, heralding an end to a once-robust manufacturing era. Diamond Tool closed. Other smokestack industries in the western neighborhoods struggled and soon followed U.S.
Like many of you, I live in the Zenith City. It is the site of my home, my children's schools and my neighborhood. It is the remarkable place with which I identify. It is also the place of the precinct where I vote and where I have an opportunity to be an active participant in the political process. For many of the citizens of Duluth, it is also the place in which their businesses are located. Decisions made in City Hall, the County Court House and the Historic Old Central High School administration offices impact us every day.