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It’s not prognostication if you are not a lummox

“Duluth was trying to develop another economy with technology, like hundreds of others tried,” Link said. “It failed everywhere, not just Duluth.” – J.R. “Rob” Link DNT

It did not fail everywhere. Stupid failed.

We don’t get to be the Galactic Seaport Gateway Harbor to the internets anymore just because we paid some Swedish shysters moneys??  Opportunistic bandwagoneers. What makes this so frustrating is 11 years ago, the same sorts of people (the Dotys, the developers, the councilpersons, the Soft Center representatives [PDF]) were cheerleading and saying exactly the opposite. And it was as obviously /Facepalm then as it appears today.

“The focal point of the Duluth Technology Village will be the Duluth Soft Center, an international information technology development and operations center modeled after a similar program in Ronneby, Sweden, which involves 75 computer software companies and about 1,000 university students. “What the model does is create a synergy between the companies and students and between the companies working with each other,” says Michael McNamara, executive director of Team Duluth, a public-private business development group that has spearheaded the project.” – Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Here is your* Soft Center Duluth today. Or maybe this:

  • free recruitment
  • relocation assistance
  • training and retraining subsidies
  • research and development grants
  • child care assistance
  • free consulting from the on-premise Center for Economic Development
  • tailored on-premise training programs from colleges and private firms, college work-study and internship programs
  • attractive financial and investment packages
  • shared education and training programs
  • lead generation, and synergistic linkages

And I will say it again: the most hilarious part of the Duluth Public Library Soft Center clipping archive is watching UMD sloooowly distance, and then pretty much completely remove themselves from the picture. Incubator interns, off-campus classes, “collaborative synergies,” &ct.

* I can’t find my notes, but to the tune of a $150,000 or $300,000/year(?) Soft Center fee until it was canceled, so, yes, you “public-private” paid for it. Oh, and I probably wouldn’t click on that Soft Center link — it looks like a ready-made spam haven — or Japanese sciatica services; not sure.

18 Comment(s)

  1. Amazing! Eleven years ago, who could have predicted that the website for Soft Center Duluth would become the go-to resource for nakagawa, a Japanese home sciatica treatment?

    The following personal testimonials attest to the impact Duluth-based technology has had on the world:

    * If you do not to have met the treatment of low back pain Nakagawa teacher, I would have to do it now? Hair -- is setting out at night just to imagine.

    * However, your body is not only one, you’ll need love yourself poor.

    * “Take the pain in just 15 minutes”, after one month even forget that it was low back pain “that letter was to have jumped into my eyes.

    Thanks for the link, Adam. And thank you, leaders of Duluth, for having the foresight and tenacity to see this amazing project through. Whatever we paid, it was worth it.

    Ramos | May 21, 2012 | New Comment
  2. Why is there an article celebrating one entrepreneur’s ability to largely convince Duluth government offices already in Duluth to relocate to another building in Duluth?

    Seems specious as a commercial victory and doubly specious as a news item.

    “Local property company convinces company from far outside our tax base to move within our tax base” — that’s news. Convincing a radio station to move across town, no net increase in taxes and leaving another landlord with an empty building to fill, is press release fodder, not news. | May 21, 2012 | New Comment
  3. But apart from the Pizza Luce, the Playground, the skyway link, takk for matten, modern office space, a business incubator, and a great anchor for Lake and Superior, what has the Tech Village ever done for us?

    adam | May 21, 2012 | New Comment
  4. Define “us” first.

    vicarious | May 21, 2012 | New Comment
  5. Let me offer a different perspective…

    Sure, I get it, we can all look back from 12 years ago and say ‘I told you so’. But maybe we should look at it like this -- it was a huge, private sector risk in a part of downtown that was dying. It took an idea that at least in concept was progressive. It was the sort of risk that nobody was willing to make in Duluth in decades.

    Now, let’s look at this strictly from a downtown development standpoint -- the building of the Tech Village complex changed the face of downtown. Look at the investment made in a block radius of that building. Most of those historic buildings have been renovated (saved) and that would not have happened without Tech Village.

    Carmody, Tycoons, improvements at the Fetus, and the Zeitgeist never would have happened if not for the change in dynamics that occurred after this development. Sherman would not have invested in downtown, Essentia would not have built towards downtown.

    More importantly, there are tenants in the tech village’s class a space that would otherwise have never considered downtown. Sansio is a major tech company doing business nation wide. If not for the tech village, it’s exactly the sort of business that (in other communities) builds itself a mini-campus in the suburbs.

    Was the Soft Center concept flawed and poorly executed? Absolutely. But that’s not the legacy of what happened. I wasn’t even on the Council when this was approved, so I’m not defending myself -- - but as someone who loves downtown I will absolutely defend this development.

    Think of downtown Duluth in 1998 when this idea was hatched. It was a dirty, depressing, and largely empty district -- NOBODY was downtown after 5pm. That has changed, for the better, and that doesn’t happen by accident.

    Rebuilding the core city is tough, building in the suburbs is easier and cheaper -- shouldn’t we be supporting those businesses and entrepreneurs who take the better (but more difficult path)?

    I know this is designed to be a “let’s all criticize the ideas that have proven themselves wrong” and I’ll grant that many here had those same criticisms 12 years ago. However, I hope that there can also be a recognition that this investment changed the face of Old Downtown, if not saved that entire district by giving other building owners the confidence to save their own buildings.

    Don Ness | May 21, 2012 | New Comment
  6. So how did Rob Link land this puff piece? Schmoozing with Robin Washington? Fat ad contract? Or just the DNT’s usual lips-firmly-planted-on-moneyed-hiney mode?

    farglebargle | May 21, 2012 | New Comment
  7. Mayor Ness,

    Totally on mark on the value of the redevelopment, but I stand by my criticism of this as a News Story. | May 21, 2012 | New Comment
  8. I thought that it was important that a better life in the future, we also use the self-investment in order to live without anxiety on the body.

    Thank you.

    Ramos | May 21, 2012 | New Comment
  9. Well, the Monday Business section is traditionally almost exclusively this sort of pablum. Note the rest of it--“Business leaders frustrated with Dayton,” marching in lockstep with the corporate Randroids from Fargo--in classic fashion, the DNT’s “news” coverage of Dayton’s veto of the Republican legislators’ so-called reform reads more like a Republican op-ed than a serious assessment of the issue at hand. Then there’s the usual Mom, I got my name in the paper! stuff, and that’s pretty much that.

    [Meanwhile, in other news, Comrade Ness's reframing of the Tech Center story strikes me as right on.]

    The Big E | May 21, 2012 | New Comment
  10. Is the suggestion here that it’s wrong for the business page to run a success story, or wrong to run a success story about Rob Link, or wrong to imply Rob Link has been successful?

    Rhetoric Guy, you wonder why the article celebrates A&L Properties’ ability to “convince Duluth government offices already in Duluth to relocate to another building in Duluth?” I think you are referring to county government offices, and that was four paragraphs, halfway through the article. The story is mostly about Enbridge Energy expanding to take up a large chunk of the Wieland Block and add about 100 jobs. That’s certainly worth good ink in the daily paper.

    The article does fail to get into specifics about the city’s investment in the Technology Village or mention the $1 sale of the Strand Theater (which became part of the Wieland Block), and it doesn’t acknowledge that those incentives/partnerships helped A&L compete against other property owners/managers. (And let’s not forget the flip side of that; improving the downtown area also benefits those other property owners/managers.) One could argue those are old stories and complex issues to delve into in an article that isn’t specifically about that, but it’s also fair to say those items should have been given better attention in the story. I strongly disagree, however, that the basis of the story itself was somehow not newsworthy.

    Paul Lundgren | May 22, 2012 | New Comment
  11. あなたは以下の様な腰痛の病状に悩まされていませんか?

    Ramos | May 22, 2012 | New Comment
  12. Synergies, synergistic linkages, and collaborative synergies!

    Come on! You had me sold on “synergies”! Where do I sign up?

    Bret | May 22, 2012 | New Comment
  13. Convincing comment by Don Ness, with the caveat that it does sideline the experiences of those of us who did have positive, transformative experiences downtown after 5pm at some point in the 90s. Not everything was drugs and crime, just as it is not now. Some of it really was wonder at the books in Carlsons, or at music or drama at this spot or that. It’s kind of depressing when those formative experiences are dismissed again now -- as they were back then. Nonetheless, generally convincing comment. Thank you.

    blind | May 22, 2012 | New Comment
  14. For the record, this was a gripe about the Duluth Soft Center model. But, this is a good conversation, too.

    adam | May 22, 2012 | New Comment
  15. Here’s a comment from Frank Nichols that for some reason was submitted as a separate post.

    I dropped into Duluth in 1988. I lived for 8 or 9 years in the basement of what was then called the Corner of the Lake Building, a part of which was called the Rutherford B. Hayes building.

    As far as the article in the paper, when I saw the headline went right for it, so it was newsworthy for me. For my first four or five years, Old Downtown didn’t have a name, then it became Lessor Downtown, then Old Downtown, where it is now. It wasn’t always an arts and entertainment district. Some of us liked it the way it was. It used to be an old wooden storefront, couple other buildings that were for me significant.

    Rob Link is one of many who saved Old Downtown, each in their own way. I understand that Rob link is a developer. One lucky thing, at least he has some idea of heritage. Could have been the West Bank in Minneapolis. The towers killed it. I was there, fought against it. Killed the West Bank. But that’s not happening here. He seems to like the old too.

    One of the plans from the 1960s that I saw when I was on the Old Downtown council was a big mall from Lake to 3rd or 4th and up to second, would have been nothing like now. This is gone to change Old Downtown. Artists always precede and usually end up moving somewhere else. Only can speak from a couple three experiences. Michigan Street may come back. I read First and Michigan was where the center of Old Downtown Duluth was. Maybe again someday. You can’t stop it. But looking at what Rob Link’s done. You could get a lot worse.

    One other thing, I would like one, while actually from Lake to Sir Ben’s I would like to see some combination of solar, wind streetlights all the way, but I’ll settle for one. I’ll put in fifty bucks.

    Paul Lundgren | May 22, 2012 | New Comment
  16. I want to hear more from Frank Nichols.

    Bret | May 22, 2012 | New Comment
  17. Right clicking on Ramos’ post and choosing “Translate into English” is pretty fun.

    Carla | May 24, 2012 | New Comment
  18. Carla, all I get are a bunch of tiny boxes. What does it say???

    emmadogs | May 24, 2012 | New Comment

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