Duluth Mayor Don Ness focuses on housing, development of St. Louis River Corridor, in State of the City Address

By KBJR News 1

March 3, 2014 Updated Mar 3, 2014 at 7:56 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Duluth Mayor Don Ness was quick to point to the city's successes of 2013 in his State of the City address Monday evening.

Among those accomplishments: a passed budget that included a property tax decrease for the first time in 14 years, and the raising of Duluth's bond rating to Double "A".

Mayor Ness also highlighted the city's lowest unemployment rate since 2008, with an emphasis on job creation, and 200 million dollars worth of total city investment that will make 2014 one of the busiest construction years in Duluth's history.

"AAR promised to create 200 jobs in 3 years," said Mayor Ness during his video-recorded speech. "By the end of the year, they were already up to 279 with plans for a fourth line and over 300 jobs by early 2014."

Mayor Ness also highlighted the closing of the controversial head shop Last Place on Earth "greatly reducing the area nuisance and crime problems."

With growth in the job sector, however, Mayor Ness says one of the biggest challenges the city faces in 2014 is an increased demand for housing and workforce recruitment.

"We see a lack of quality options for new residents, increased rents for sub–standard units, and an increased conversion of single–family homes into rental units," said Ness, as pictures of houses in Duluth's hillside and west end rolled on the screen.

Mayor Ness says the city will need 1,000 new or renovated units by 2017, and 2,300 by 2020.

Nationwide, Mayor Ness says the lack of workforce availability offers a chance for Duluth to bring more jobs to the region.

"By coordinating training partnerships between employers, area schools and colleges, we can demonstrate real value to employers by effectively meeting their skill needs," said Ness.

But close to half of the address was focused solely on environmental and economic development of the St. Louis River corridor.

Mayor Ness says the riverfront on Duluth's west side offers big strengths as a modern industrial site "including over 1,000 acres of potential industrial sites, extensive under–utilized utility infrastructure, [and] shipping capacity and waterfront industrial sites."

In the past decade, Mayor Ness says over $20 million has been invested in new infrastructure, and environmental cleanup, proving the two can go hand in hand.

Mayor Ness says it should be a common goal that, when new families move to town, area realtors are sure to show homes along the St. Louis River corridor because of the wealth of outdoor experiences, and future job creation that the area either has now, or hopefully will have in the coming months and years.

Billy Wagness
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