Poverty in Duluth

A public lecture by Dave Benson (executive director of the Damiano Center) happened to a standing-room only crowd at 5pm in the UMD Library Rotunda. I had to sit in the next room and listen intently.

The Damiano Center provides meals, clothing, and other emergency assistance to people living in poverty in Duluth. Benson has been at the Damiano Center for seven years and has also worked as a teacher, writer, editor, and naturalist. For more information about the Damiano Center, see damianocenter.org.

Link to WDIO Coverage.

For me, the central revelation was the ways in which people cycle through poverty. The poor are not, he said, a permanent underclass. Rather, people fall into poverty, and then move through poverty. We don’t have the problem of a permanent underclass (which raises questions of “responsibility” and “dependence”), but instead we have a state of emergency into which too many fall…

Link to Fox21 coverage

An awesome talk, and an awesome example of the work Shane Courtland does as the director of the center — bringing the expertise of the community to the university.



about 13 years ago

...and like salt in a wound, MPR news and Mpls Star Trib reported that Hitachi Consulting and Microsoft have formed a joint venture in Fargo, ND with prospect of creating 1500 jobs.  The JV will be based on the Microsoft campus where 1700 already work and will eventually move into new premises.

I think it's time to send a clear message to DEDA, city hall and St Paul to get some real jobs coming to Duluth or their public careers are going to get the chop.


about 13 years ago

I heard the MPR story too.  I had no idea Microsoft had its second largest campus in Fargo!  Fargo?  
After all the energy that went in to romancing Google, I think we need to look at other potential high tech businesses.  If they're moving to Fargo, being on the top 25 coldest list can't be a problem.


about 13 years ago

The reason Microsoft is in Fargo is because that's where Great Plains Software was started.  Great Plains started as a small software company back in the mid 1980s that made it big.  It was acquired by Microsoft within the past 10 years.  

It's highly unlikely that Google, Apple, Microsoft, or any other tech heavyweight will just start up a facility in Duluth.  Fargo already had a bunch of talented employees working for a very good software company.  The biggest tech-related company in Duluth is probably Saturn Systems, which designs software for companies that would rather outsource IT than build it in-house.  No offense to Saturn Systems as it has a talented staff and is growing steadily, but it's not nearly as big as Great Plains Software and isn't going to be bought out by a tech heavyweight anytime soon.  

But a tech heavyweight is only going to show up in Duluth if somebody starts a small business here that grows big and a heavyweight is interested in acquiring it.  There's little to nothing that DEDA, APEX, or any other so called economic development agency can do.  Government can't create jobs, only people can.

[email protected]

about 13 years ago

Of course, the climate and culture for such success can be in part created by strong governmental presence:  Great Plains would not be in Fargo were NDSU not there.  (See "Profile - Doug Burgum: Entrepreneur and philanthropist")

That's a dynamic synergy we have yet to replicate.


about 13 years ago

Duluth has a history of disincentiving development. Mayor Ness has a good heart and good intentions but there are plenty of past decisions that took the wind out of the sails of other businesses looking this direction. We have one of the most beautiful settings in the world so we ought to be able to figure it out. Time does not permit an extrapolation on this comment because I gotta go to work. But it is a seriously important issue and needs to remain a top agenda item for the city of Duluth.

Angela Brannan

about 13 years ago

If folks are interested in seeing more on the topic, look for the film documentary "DuluthQ: Poverty, Homelessness and the Working Poor" at all branches of the Duluth Public Library. It was released at the end of August and includes Dave Benson along with other nonprofit directors, elected officials, and other community members offering their take on the subject. 

The film addresses the questions, "What is poverty," "What does it look like," "What is being done," and "What can you do?" Effective action is always a challenge, but there are things every individual can do to make a difference. I agree with Mr. Benson that raising awareness is the best first step. It increases the population that understands that some things need to change = greater input of creative solutions = greater output of effective action.

Angela Brannan

about 13 years ago

I forgot to mention: 

The Duluth Q group will be meeting Thursday, January 12, 5:00pm at Carmody Irish Pub. 

We are looking for 20-35 year olds passionate about making changes in Duluth regarding social issues. We look for folks willing to play active roles in the group by attending meetings, participating in decided actions and events, adding creative input on changes to make in our community, etc. Please bring friends who might also be interested, or help spread the word!

I hope to see you there.

(DuluthQ is a forum for community-wide discussion in Duluth, Minnesota. These discussions, and subsequent actions, are initiated by questions posed by a group of 20-35 year olds in Duluth with the common goal of building stronger communities by raising awareness and providing actions for change about local social issues. Catalyst project, film documentary, "Duluth Q: Poverty, Homelessness and the Working Poor," was released August 23, 2011, and is now available in all branches of the Duluth Public Library. Find our group on facebook by searching "DuluthQ.")

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