Sunday DNT Article — Duluth Life 2.0

On the whole I think the Duluth News Tribune does a great job of covering Duluth. And maybe I am too sensitive but I struggle with the overall message of the article Minneapolis couple drops corporate jobs and makes living a priority with move to Duluth (at least how I perceive it). As my friend pointed out it seems like “the unspoken angle is that sacrifice has to be made to live in Duluth.”

I grew up in Richfield, went to college in St. Paul, and came up to Duluth for graduate school. After graduate school, I got a  corporate job in the south and relocated with my wife. We hated it, and when the opportunity came to return to Duluth we jumped on it. The opportunity came with some sacrifices but we could both continue in our respective career paths while having what we consider a much better overall standard of living.

We love Duluth for the same reasons why it attracts many people. The accessibility to the outdoors, the progressive feel of the city, plus the proximity to our hometowns. We’re some of the people that Mayor Ness is talking about. My wife and I are in our late 20s, home (and dog!) owners, and are about to start a family. But I disagree that living in Duluth has to be “living the simple life” or “Life 2.0.”

I agree that we should continue to take pride in these things that make Duluth unique but I think we are selling Duluth short if we paint a narrative that one has to sacrifice career or job opportunities to live in the Northland. Duluth and Mayor Ness has done a good job of expanding opportunity but I still know of many young people who are un- or underemployed and we need to continue focusing on opportunities to existing Duluth residents while growing our city.

The amenities Duluth offers will continue to attract some of the Midwest’s best and brightest. I believe that the city and region need to make sure that we continue to expand and incubate opportunities and avoid a narrative of sacrifice. We can have our cake and eat it too.

1 Comment


about 10 years ago

I moved here from the Twin Cities back in 2004 because my wife got a job offer up here. We now have one child and another on the way born in Duluth, own a home, and both have decent jobs. We could make more money if we lived in the Twin Cities, but our commutes would be significantly longer. Our house would also be less desirable while more expensive, but you get more for your dollar up here. In the Twin Cities $300K will buy you a nice size house built on an old swamp with a view of your neighbor's kitchen out of your livingroom window. Mosquitoes, humidity, freeway traffic, and having to drive 30 minutes everywhere sucked. Traffic jams qualified as stress relievers because of the language you would use!

That being said this is a tough town. You have to become a Duluthian to survive here and I have noticed being born here comes with some privileges. In the Twin Cities you are all a part of the Metro area and thus are a part of a club. You identify with your cellphone area-code and it really identifies who you are. I kept my number for the first 7 years I was here and then I finally became a 218'er. The difference is that prior to changing my number I wouldn't get many interviews for jobs I applied for in my field, but afterward I would get an interview anywhere I applied. When I was hired to a great local position I noticed that 80% of my coworkers were from here. They grew up here, went to school here, maybe took a short stint in the cities, but they quickly returned and settled. 

In Duluth and the surrounding communities you either join the club or you won't make it up here for the long haul. (IMHO)

As an "outsider" I am not sold on all the outdoors stuff up here because it is cold in Minnesota for over half the year. I'm not going to ride a fat-tire bike in 30 below windchill down hills that are too dangerous to even drive a 4wd truck on or jog the Lakewalk when it is so cold that my toes are turning black. Despite the magazine awards, when we are this cold in November I am not thinking this is the best outdoor community to live in. Having the Mall of America with its indoor amusement park is a whole lot better than the wasted space that is Adventure Zone. Put some rides in there for the kids or build something indoors up the hill that we can take little tikes whose faces freeze from the bitter cold. We have the lake, but as a 5th generation Minneapolis born kid there is nothing like the Mighty Mississippi and the watching barges go through the locks too. 

When I was a kid my dad had season tickets to the Vikings and we would cheer the team on at the Met when I would fall asleep, but mostly in the Metrodome. There also were indoor monster truck rallies and other events where you didn't freeze to death.  The Holidazzle Parade went nightly until Xmas with great floats and lot's of lights - the Xmas City Parade has lot's of danceliners walking to the music and tons of high school kids getting their mouths frozen to their instruments. Best of all you could always count on Dayton's downtown for their amazing animatronic displays, which my parents would give me a free day off of school to see each year. The best thing were the concerts though. Major acts came through town and national Broadway tours were always visiting.  Up here we get Cheech and Chong or some half-rate country singer... Although, we did get Elton John, Dylan, Willie Nelson and Queens of the Stone Age's Duluth tour a few years ago....  We need more to come here though!

I wanted to move here though because I love the lake. I love that you can live in the midwest and feel like you live on the ocean. It boggles my mind that there are not a ton of restaurants with better views of the lake, why we don't have more indoor stuff to do in the winter, and that the college hockey team is the largest sporting draw. (Sorry I went to SCSU and am not a Bulldog's fan).

It is hard here and the only way to make it is to try to fit in. You grow a beard, put on your stocking hat, and go to a Charlie Parr concert at Lucé. You buy Kenspeckle Letterpress and Jaredt Runions' art for your walls and get a car starter for your Subaru. You end up buying a crappy car because you know it is only a matter of time before you have to drive into a curb to end your slide down an Avenue that was poorly plowed. You complain about paved walkways at Hartley and you snowshoe the Lake Superior hiking trail after setting up your tent in the snow. There is Spirit Mountain and the new rollercoaster in the summer to go along with amazing skiing in the winter. There are restaurants with character and more beer choices than you would see in Germany. 

I love Duluth, do I think it could get better? Of course. Do I think you are giving up things to live here? Yes. Would I move down to the Twin Cities? No way. I've worked hard and will continue to work hard to call myself a Duluthian.

I'll never go back to what a kid from Floodwood called me... A City-diot...

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