Signs Point to Prosperity for Twin Ports

By KBJR News 1

November 28, 2012 Updated Nov 28, 2012 at 7:07 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)
-- Airplane maintenance facility AAR's start up in Duluth is just one example of the resurgence the Twin Ports' economy these days.

Duluth Mayor Don Ness grew up in a different Duluth.

"Duluth was in some dire times," said Ness. "We were one of the most distressed cities in the nation."

Unemployment numbers in the 80's reflect the struggle.

"At one time we had an unemployment rate 2nd in the nation, only behind Newark, New Jersey at nearly 20 percent."

But, as Bob Dylan says, the times, they are a-changing.

"You see local businesses investigating in our city, multinational corporations in our community," said Ness, outside of City Hall Wedsnday.

Mayor Ness thanks the groundwork laid by his predecessors, who created an esthetically pleasing downtown district and a revamped Canal Park.

He says that helped to attract a strong work force.

"The primary, motivating factor for these companies and where they locate is workforce."

But it's not just Duluth that's seeing positive economic growth. In Superior the jobs are rolling in as well, and pretty soon they'll be rolling in by the hundreds.

That's thanks in large part to the start up of Kestrel.

"They are going to have 100 people this year. They'll have more than 200 people by the end of next year and in 2014, when the first plane rolls off, it'll be 300 people or more."

Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen says a strong education system, on top of an attractive workforce, is bringing employers, like airplane manufacturer Kestrel to Superior.

The city is also giving two of its signature streets, Belknap and Tower Avenues facelifts in the coming years, creating a look to keep young professional living in the downtown area.

"We need to make sure that we make room for, and growth for, our young professionals," said Hagen.

Growth that's being enjoyed by both port cities that battled off a recession, to come out strong, and ready for the future.

The Twin-ports has seen a steady rise in the labor force since 1990, and an unemployment rate regularly under the national average.

Preliminary unemployment numbers for October show a rate of 5.9 percent.