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Unwelcome Duluth?

MPR has this story about the difficulty of settling into Duluth both professionally and otherwise for a new college grad.

I know in order to finally make this place home myself I had to leave after my tenure at UMD and gain experience and then be willing to make a little less salary but then be able to live here and enjoy it’s uniqueness permanently. I know of others who have done the same and feel the same a I do.

What’s your experience?

Duluth not welcoming, young transplants looking for work say

41 Comment(s)

  1. Getting a job here is hard, whether you’re from here or not. You have to know someone just to be considered for a position. It’s not because Duluth is “not welcoming,” it’s because there are no good jobs here. If there’s a good job, someone has it.

    Karasu | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  2. People love to complain about not being able to find work in Duluth — and the truth is it isn’t easy — but obviously if you know someone with a good job here, well, that job was open at one point.

    As a city of medium population base, Duluth will always be considered a tough place to get hired. Obviously it’s easier to get the job you want in Minneapolis than in Duluth, and obviously it’s easier to get that job in Duluth than in Barnum.

    So the question is, are there other cities of 80,000 to 90,000 people that are hiring like crazy?

    Paul Lundgren | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  3. I recently moved to Duluth 2 years ago and haven’t found the assertions from the article to be the case here. I got a job and moved here from Cleveland Ohio. However, I am in a unique situation as a Pastor of a Church. Duluth came preloaded with a welcoming community for me, so it was certainly welcoming to me.

    One unique thing that I have noticed within my congregation is that we have seen a huge uptick in growth from people moving here from outside of the area. So far just in the past year we have had people join the church from Missouri, Belgium, Minneapolis, Chicago, Madison, and Green Bay. They are getting jobs here somehow. So, the sweeping generalizations from the article makes me a little uncomfortable.

    In my unscientific assessment Duluth is that place a lot of people choose to live. In my view that choice happens after their first job (which is “just get a job”). When people choose where to settle, raise a family…etc that seems to be Duluth. I know that was a factor in my decision. I wanted to raise a family here -- for all of the reasons I don’t have to explain to anyone on this site. It is great here. And you have jobs, trust me, I lived in Cleveland.

    Again, I have a different perspective on this, but people are getting Jobs here from outside the community -- myself included. Those are my .02 cents.

    tomasbury | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  4. Since moving to Duluth in 1998, I have worked as a dishwasher, a cook, a paper carrier, a data entry operator, a janitor, a cab driver, a journalist, a columnist, a publisher, a standardized test grader, a handwritten signature affixer (that was fun), a census taker, a telemarketer, a survey taker, a phone book deliverer, a dorm cleaner, a pizza delivery guy, a fire-safety grill hood cleaner, a postal worker and a radio dispatcher. Now I’m a stay-at-home dad and it RULES!


    Ramos | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  5. I can understand where people feel that you have to know someone here to get hired. I’ve definitely been on the right hand of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I can tell you though, that is not always the case.

    I was born and raised here, but left for college and my first year of employment. Finding a job here was like pulling teeth. The earlier points about population are very true. We’re a city under 90,000. There aren’t dozens of jobs within each field available, maybe 5-10 a year. Many businesses here aren’t as large as the cities because they tailor to the market.

    I felt pretty lucky to be able to return to Duluth and it would take a really sweet deal to get me out of here. Of course I’ve got friends elsewhere with some really nice salaries, but so much of that is eaten away by the obvious costs of living in a metro area.

    Being welcome here though, I feel very welcome, since returning. I think the community appreciates hearing that I wanted to come back and settle down.

    erik_ote | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  6. My husband and I both came to Duluth from the Twin Cities and went to school at UMD. We’ve both been fortunate enough to be able to build very good careers here, as have our other friends who have chosen to stay. Though our salaries aren’t quite as high as they might be in the Twin Cities, they’re close enough. The small-town sort of networking has actually worked out in our favor — since the recession hit, my husband has been laid off a couple of times, but has never been without a decent job for more than a few weeks. It’s because he does good work and employers know they can trust those recommending him.

    The trick is in building that network. The best thing you can do as a student is get as much experience in your field of work as possible. I think that’s true everywhere, and not just in Duluth. Volunteer for after-school programs and teach young students about your passion. Take internships or low-paying jobs if they let you spend even a fraction of your time gaining experience in your chosen field. If you want to work in technology after graduation, don’t spend your days working in the dinning center or in retail — get an IT related job on campus. That’s how you meet the people who will help you find the jobs and that’s how you’ll build up the experience you need to set yourself apart from all of the other applicants.

    It is tough, but it’s certainly not impossible. We love Duluth and are very happy to have been able to make it our home.

    MJ | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  7. I think maybe there ought to be a bit of a distinction between being hired to come to Duluth, and coming to Duluth and trying to find a job. My partner was “preloaded” as the job and support were waiting. I have to find a job and have felt exactly what the story is about with one exception. I come preloaded with 25 years of experience and still can’t get hired. And just to vent a bit, it really pisses me off that after the 6 interviews I have had nobody calls to say “no.” You are left hanging, like delivering the bad news is too painful for an employer.

    On a number of occasions locals have volunteered it is very much the “who you know/where you are from” factor that will get you hired. There is no age limit to this problem.

    Thomas | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  8. I moved to Chicago for grad school after graduating from UMD in 2008. Life got in the way, grad school fell to the wayside, and I took a high-paying, low-skill job for a big corporation outside the city. I spent a miserable year there. I honestly feel as though without this crappy job, I never would have had the skills needed to land the jobs I’ve had in Duluth since returning in 2009.

    I should mention it took almost two years of service-industry work before I managed to get work in the field I desired. I took the only job I could find in my field, got some experience, landed a better one, and was then promoted. Four years after graduating, I feel that I’m in the best job I could be for my experience and preference.

    Funny thing is, my current job is at least 10x harder than the Chicago job and I still make significantly less money than I did down there. For me, Duluth and the type of work I do was more important than the money. However, I can see Duluth grads finding jobs elsewhere and wanting to stay for the money they won’t find in Duluth.

    Gaining experience in a larger city was beneficial for me in that I think it helped me stand out from the crowd. Perhaps it isn’t a bad idea for area grads to do what I did — go to a bigger city where they can actually land a job, gain some experience, and then come back.

    If they truly want to live in Duluth, I think many will need to accept the fact that pay is not what it is in larger metro areas, even factoring in the differences in cost of living. This isn’t true in every field, but it has been in my case. For me, just being able to live in Duluth makes it worthwhile. That may not be the case for everyone.

    duluthperson | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  9. I moved here 12 years ago--despite being a total wallflower, I’m still here and feel like I have more of a community here than anywhere I’ve lived since I left my hometown 20 years ago. I guess a lot of people I know are fellow transplants. But still.

    The Big E | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  10. I moved here 10 years ago after college and chose to create my own jobs. Now Duluth won’t let me leave.

    Jake | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  11. As a Duluthian, born, raised and educated K through an undergraduate degree, I find these questions and statements about the difficulty of meeting people or finding employment in Duluth and greater Minnesota ridiculous. No matter where you live, meeting people or finding employment is easy or difficult and depends on the individual.

    Yes, we Scandinavians can be cool, reserved and are not quick to introduce ourselves or you to others. Get over it. It is nothing personal, it is just who we are. We are not going to change and you need to recognize what you are getting into.

    No one is going to hand you a job if you simply move to a town and no one is going to drag you out of your house to introduce you to other people. You must assert and introduce yourself to others socially and professionally, just like everywhere else.

    “Hi, my name is… (handshake). Where are you from? What do like to do?” goes a long way. Volunteer, join a club, play sports, go to a lecture, art opening, CD release party, theater, attend a dinner party, etc. and introduce yourself to others. With Facebook and social networking, meeting people and joining groups has never been easier.

    Duluth is a great place to live if you can make a living. Most of my childhood friends have moved away like myself for school or employment. Most of my closest adult friends moved to Duluth to attend UMD and chose to stay. Duluth is a filter for many good people who stayed for the community, natural beauty, outdoor recreation, music scene, beer, nightlife, etc. Duluth is not LA, NYC, Chicago or a god-awful suburb of MSP. As noted above, you are not going to make the same salary as you would in a larger city. If you are looking for quality of life, community, outdoor access, etc. Duluth is fantastic.

    Having lived, worked and attended schools in several countries and other states, I still consider Duluth home, though I have not lived there in 10 years. When I visit, I feel like a stranger in my own hometown at times, but am quick to introduce myself and have not had a problem making new friends.

    I moved to Winona, MN six years ago for work having never been here before and did not know a soul. I was warned by similar complaints of the difficulty of meeting new people here too. It was up to me to meet others and I now know hundreds of diverse people, have a very active and fun social life, volunteer, am on a city board and run into people I know everywhere I go. I enjoy Winona, the community, my friends, the river and bluffs but I still miss Duluth. You do not know how lucky you are to live in such a great city.

    Swan | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  12. UMD grads that they’re talking about here are often transplants from out of the area that came to Duluth for college to get away from home, found that they liked it and decided to stay. They did not relocate here to start a professional life, they came here for school and then decided to start a professional life here.

    A lot of these grads have a degree in a field but little to no work experience in their field and they expect to just graduate and find their perfect job in a community that has a university pumping out people with similar degrees? Let’s face it, the job market in Duluth is hard to get into because it’s an attractive place to live and has a very good university producing a lot of qualified graduates in comparison to the job market for a city Duluth’s size.

    This article is a joke!

    rocknessmonster | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  13. I can’t take this article seriously, either. The study is questionable: How do you measure squishy concepts like openness and aesthetics, anyway? And most of the article’s conclusions seem to be based on anecdotal evidence. I could offer my own positive anecdotal evidence to refute the story’s claims, but that might undermine my point.

    Mike Scholtz | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  14. I was born and raised here, left for college, moved back, went back to school and got a degree in a field that is supposed to be iron-clad for job security and availability. It took me over a year from graduation to get hired. And I know people: managers, CEOs, etc. Sometimes its not even who you know, economic downturns, union rules, and hiring freezes can make it impossible to get into a job as a newcomer.

    Socially, I have met and made so many new friends since moving back to Duluth, I don’t know how anyone could think this is an unfriendly town. Maybe they are just trying to be friends with the wrong people.

    meb | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  15. I’m a bit puzzled by the constant lamentation over college grads leaving Duluth when they finish school. Duluth could stand to increase the number of young adults who live here, and I certainly empathize with students who fall in love with Duluth and want to stay on. But it seems to me that most grads have to leave. It’s just math.

    UMD graduated nearly 1300 people in 2011 — the vast majority of them from somewhere else. A city of 85,000 can’t add more than a thousand residents every year unless there’s one heck of an economic boom in progress. And there isn’t.

    Chris Julin | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  16. @Paul L: Fargo ND (with Moorhead MN) has a slightly larger population about 200,000 but 10 years ago it was about the same population Duluth is now and has had a strong job market there for as long as I can remember and I grew up there in the early ’90s. I think Duluth would do well to learn from what the FM area has done the past 20+ years.

    As for Duluth being unwelcoming, I’ve been here for four years and I feel it, even though I’m sort of a local and have family in town and nearby. I was fortunate to have a job bring me here, and it is very unlikely that if I were to leave my current position that I would be able to find work in Duluth in my career field. Not that I couldn’t find/get a J-O-B, but it wouldn’t be what I am passionate about. I’m not terribly outgoing and the last thing I would like to do is invite people to my house for an event/dinner/just to hang out. You’re as welcome as you want to be welcoming is how I see it.

    BryGuy | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  17. It might just be my perception, but an investment in the community might solve a little bit of the unwelcomeness that some folks sense. I’ve lived in several nice neighborhoods, but I’ve always rented prior to this locale and it didn’t seem to matter how nice or friendly my neighbors were, they still kinda viewed me as a transitional neighbor.

    My neighbors now are much more welcoming due in large part to the fact that it doesn’t matter that the missus and I aren’t from here, it’s that we’re investing in the city by raising buying property and our kids here that has had a lot of influence in the difference of attitude.

    Like I said … it might just be my perception. | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  18. BryGuy’s point brings me back to the old post about Duluth’s population. Would it really be a good thing for Duluth to have a major boom? Where would all the new homes go? I would say they’d probably go along your favorite trail in the woods. If Duluth stops being Duluth, then we might as well live in the Twin Cities.

    Of course, I’m not saying that’s a problem we’re likely to have and we should run around throwing up barriers to growth. A little boom that adds maybe 7,000 people wouldn’t be too bad at all. My point is that we should be careful what we wish for and treasure what we have.

    Paul Lundgren | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  19. +1 paul. | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  20. I came to Duluth about a year ago. My wife and I have done the corporate relocation thing five times in the 25 years we have been married.

    I came to Duluth for a great job, with a great company. I like the area, the schools, and the people.

    I also have worked around the world, and you can’t beat a small Midwestern city to raise a family.

    I like Duluth, it’s large enough to have the services I want, and small enough to feel like home.

    I moved my 20-something daughter here and leased an apartment for her. She also like Duluth and was able to find a job quickly.

    If you think that there are no jobs or opportunity in Duluth, go take a look at Southeast Michigan. You can buy the house I can’t sell there while your at it.

    Joel | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  21. “If Duluth stops being Duluth, then we might as well live in the Twin Cities.”

    What a ridiculous false dichotomy. Do you really think there’s nothing in between these alternatives?

    A stagnant or very-slowly-declining Duluth is what you want, to keep “being Duluth,” because a thriving, growing Duluth necessarily means “we might as well live in the Twin Cities” (a metro of 3.6 million people)? Really?

    secretseasons | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  22. Yawn. People who’ve lived here for decades, often since childhood, don’t see the problem. Sherpas in Himalayas also think air is fine.

    Meanwhile, the Knight foundation quantifies and describes the problem. | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  23. Rochester, MN?

    lojasmo | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  24. Do I really have to re-explain what I so carefully and correctly articulated the first time?

    There is nothing wrong with Duluth growing a little. The more it grows, however, the more we lose the urban wilderness of the city. It won’t become the equivalent of the Twin Cities, but if you chip away the allure enough my passion for the city will wane.

    You can say, “So what? Who needs Paul Lundgren skipping down his stupid hiking trail when we’ve got thriving industry and 200,000 shiny happy workers?” And you’d be right. Just because I don’t like that notion doesn’t make it bad. It just makes it something I don’t want.

    I don’t believe in a “ridiculous false dichotomy” and that there is “nothing in between these alternatives.” I clearly stated that I prefer something in between. I think that’s what Mayor Ness is proposing with his “90 by 20 Initiative” or “Prosperity Agenda” or whatever the hell it is. Not knowing any of the details, I tentatively offer my wavering support. Maybe I’ll go to the Lunch Panel with Mayor Ness and learn something.

    “If Duluth stops being Duluth, then we might as well live in the Twin Cities,” doesn’t mean I think Duluth might become the equivalent to the Twin Cities in size; it means that at a certain level of population Duluth could be less attractive to people who like the size of it now, rendering it less special and more like any other city.

    Ahhh, I see now. I should have wrote that “if Duluth stops being Duluth, we might as well live in Moorhead.” Maybe the whole misunderstanding was my fault after all.

    Paul Lundgren | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  25. Facebook is over!

    Herzog | Apr 11, 2012 | New Comment
  26. Lojasmo, I like visiting Rochester quite a bit and wonder if there isn’t something to learn there… Especially since we have things that could out-Rochester Rochester… A partial med school, a pharmacy school, 4 colleges/universities… We could compete in medicine at a low level and in tech sector at a higher level.

    Paul, I think where you and I might differ if that you want Ely with enough population to offer pleasant amenities adjacent. I want enough population to make this place vibrant and diverse and energetic with a Great Lake adjacent. I used to describe Duluth as a micro-Milwaukee; I recognize now what parts got excised in the shrinking.

    There is a middle ground, though it will make neither of us happy. You got here first, so I’ll cede to you. For now… | Apr 12, 2012 | New Comment
  27. All this talk of competing sectors makes me want to join a Homo Sapien poop-throwing contest, or move deep into the Alaskan tundra, whichever comes first. Ah, but some relish the race to the top, to be the very best, to out-compete thy neighbor.

    Staying virile in the modern age means using Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, and never backing down. Always bare your teeth to strangers, then break out the small talk. You must stay on top of your profiles, and introduce yourself to everyone first, then they will see you are strong, and show you their backs. This could be your next opportunity to seize their job!

    But isn’t it kind of strange, being trapped on a little ball of clay, lost in space as we are, always trying to out-compete each other, while watching over our shoulder and policing the world? Shouldn’t we be trying to figure out how we’re all not going to get each other killed instead? Rochester and Duluth, together as one. I know, that’s not how the real world works.

    In reality, most everyone is afraid of strangers, more comfortable with their best buddies from preschool, or in this case, Homegrown One and Two. Swan, you get extra points for breaking out of this mold, however getting that mega dream job was one in a million, and probably didn’t hurt your inner circle. But world class museums up here either don’t exist, or aren’t hiring by the dozens last I checked, even if we had a juggernaut of degrees like you. So don’t be so hard on local Scandinavians, in reality, they’re just like Americans, they avoid hot sauce and foreign interaction like Bubonic plague, as they should.

    Newbies, whatever you do, don’t show any signs of weakness, like telling them you’re new to the area, and begging for forgiveness, they’ll take it and use it against you. For now, to achieve these ends of an all encompassing social circle majority, who support you in your livelihoods, you must first find the inner beauty of Duluth and express your undying love of it as fervently as you can. And, as Uncle Paul would have you do, bitch less about what is wrong with it, and focus more on what is right.

    Herzog | Apr 12, 2012 | New Comment
  28. For ten years, I’ve worked with student interns from all Duluth and Superior’s colleges and universities. Clearly, students who realize that they need to go the extra mile preparing for the job market get a head start. They seek internships. They are active participants in the community. And they are generally more self determined.

    It’s those cream-of-the-crop students that I’ve worked with that have gotten jobs right out of college -- at least in the marketing field. A couple got a job with our agency. Some went to other marketing companies in Duluth. Others used their experience to get great jobs in the Cities.

    The one constant in the students who succeeded more quickly was that they recognized they had to over-achieve to be competitive. That’s the market we’re in, both as a community and as a country.

    When I speak at college classes, I always urge the class to look for opportunities. To use social media to their advantage -- to promote their own ideas rather than the weekend’s best party pics. (I know that sounds lame.) But this week I received a couple messages from students on LinkedIn.

    There are opportunities here. And, to a certain degree, it does matter “who you know.” I believe our community’s students have a huge opportunity to get to know the business community. Many of them do already. We can continue to be open to that, and retain even more talent.

    mikeseyfer | Apr 12, 2012 | New Comment
  29. When I was in my 20s this town was about ready to turn off the lights. The median age was 65 and I could hardly wait for that generation to die so that a younger, less provincial generation would then “be in charge.” Well, it’s 30 years later and the median age is somewhere in the 30s. Transplants (with actual initiative) have made this town waaaay better. The biggest drawback seems to be this wanting-it-all-quest-for-perfection that just isn’t going to happen. Duluth has some foibles, but man, comparing us to Fargo ain’t apples and oranges- it’s apples and spark plugs!

    TimK | Apr 12, 2012 | New Comment
  30. “Clearly, students who realize that they need to go the extra mile preparing for the job market get a head start. They seek internships.”

    Because they have the privilege of not having to work to live.

    adam | Apr 12, 2012 | New Comment
  31. @adam. Not sure I agree. Today’s students also have the “privilege” of graduating with more debt than previous generations.

    I also met with two students this week, each of whom is carrying a full-time class load, interning, and working. Not exactly silver spoons.

    mikeseyfer | Apr 12, 2012 | New Comment
  32. I don’t think adam was calling students silver spoons. A lot of people just can’t afford to work for free/very litte. You have to either have some other source of wealth or take out loans to do that.

    I wouldn’t call it much of a privilege though. Most of these internships are entry level jobs that people used to be paid for. If you spend a year or two living on loans for an internship and then don’t land a job at the end you can be ruined. Even people who live off their parents usually aren’t happy about it.

    Nettles | Apr 12, 2012 | New Comment
  33. Adam, they have the privilege of loans to defer those costs, typically, not independent or family wealth. That’s no privilege. That us burdening them with our economic choices to devalue entry level labor. | Apr 12, 2012 | New Comment
  34. When I moved away from Duluth last August, I had been living there for 5 years and had graduated from CSS with an education degree in 2010. I was and am one of those “new professionals” being spoken about. I loved living in Duluth and miss it dearly and had made a lot of community connections through exhaustive work in the community during my undergrad that, had I waited longer, would have surely helped me to find a better paying job. However in my situation I was only 2 months married, 4 months pregnant, and the main bread-winner of my family looking to now fully support two more human beings and a ice-queen cat.

    So, I moved to Onamia. Not because Duluth was unfriendly to a young, recent graduate…but because in the time allotted I couldn’t have waited for a great job to open up in the competitive fields I’m interested in.

    I think jobs are hard to find in all middle-level population cities. Since I’ve moved out here I’ve had to hear how hard it is to find jobs in Brainerd, and when I lived in St. Cloud I heard the same of their city. Ask my 55 year old mother, a recent technical institute graduate, how easy it is for her to find jobs in Green Bay, WI. The ability to find a job varies from person to person: What are you willing to settle for? What are your options? Who do you know? Sometimes life just works out that way and it doesn’t have to be anybody’s “fault” or some tragic circumstance. There are too many variables at play.

    For my money, I still consider Duluth my home. I intend to return someday when something in one of my chosen fields opens up and have never felt the “sting” of being unwelcome in a town that welcomes thousands of strangers every summer for tourism and every fall for college. Sometimes people just feel the need to throw pity parties for no reason.

    Makoons | Apr 13, 2012 | New Comment
  35. There is at least one local who breaks triumphantly out of the traditional Scandinavian mold, by inviting all into his home, who understands not only the value of art and music, but also that of free food and beer. This man feels deeply, he connects with Mother Superior on a very personal level. And his name rhymes with Harum Scarum.

    Herzog | Apr 13, 2012 | New Comment
  36. Rochester has an entire medical school, a pharmacy program, and extensions of St. Scholastica, Winona State, and U ofM. Furthermore, 25% of all Minnesota health care staff work in Olmsted county (that’s the real saving grace of Rochester.)

    lojasmo | Apr 13, 2012 | New Comment
  37. The unemployment rate in February for Duluth was 6.9 percent. I don’t know if that’s right, but it’s what I could find. The mayor is doing something right.

    frank nichols | Apr 13, 2012 | New Comment
  38. Be careful what you wish for.

    frank nichols | Apr 13, 2012 | New Comment
  39. That was meant to be a comment for one of Paul’s comments.

    frank nichols | Apr 13, 2012 | New Comment
  40. I got here in 1988. It took me five or six years to find some sort of roots. It’s a hard town to break into. OK now though.

    frank nichols | Apr 13, 2012 | New Comment
  41. This is a good opportunity to tell Duluth skateboarders to GTFO. Again.

    adam | Apr 15, 2012 | New Comment

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