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To move back or not?

I was born and raised in Duluth (I left five years ago) and I am contemplating moving back to Duluth from the Twin Cities. The main reason: I miss my family. However, I have a few concerns and would like feedback from non-relatives that still live in Duluth. We left mostly because of the lack of jobs. Have things improved? I am also concerned about lack of activities for small children, quality of schools, etc. Is Duluth really turning around, or is it dying?

17 Comments

Paul Lundgren

about 4 years ago

I am sure you will get answers to your question that span from "Duluth has zillions of jobs and wonderful schools" to "there are no jobs here and the school board is comprised of bone heads."

The main thing to consider is this: You should not move to Duluth because you miss your family. You should move to Duluth because you want to live in Duluth. 

Duluth is improving every day, but most of us who are here have either loved it for many years or are the type who complain about everything all the time (or both). If you didn't want to live in Duluth five years ago, it's doubtful enough has changed to make you want to live here now. If you loved Duluth five years ago and just couldn't get the job you wanted, that situation may have changed or could change at any moment, depending on what field you seek employment.

BadCat!

about 4 years ago

I think things are improving somewhat. Within the last 6 months or so, I noticed a strong increase in Facebook posts from friends talking about job openings at their companies. I can't recall that happening previously.

Rae

about 4 years ago

I completely agree with Paul's analysis. If you are only here for family, you won't find much happiness. I moved back to this area because I missed the lake and was able to obtain a job that complemented my education. The city definitely has it's problems, but it also has a lot of benefits and has been making good progress toward improving its overall image and amenities.

If you are trying to judge the economy and development of Duluth as a city it may be helpful to note the project's in development and projects under construction.

Unemployment Rate: In September 2014, Duluth had an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent. (It may be closer to 4.0 percent now.) This is only slightly higher than the Minnesota rate of 4.1 percent. Even at its peak in March of 2009, Duluth was only tenths of a percent higher than the Minnesota rate. However, your ability to secure a job will be entirely dependent upon your industry and the needs of the area at the time you choose to move.

kerc

about 4 years ago

Duluth is a fantastic place to raise kids. The Big E and I are facing a job loss that could potentially move us from Duluth. We don't think our children have suffered a lack of activities here in Duluth. Sure, there are things we don't have (see Claire's post on French for instance), but there are only so many hours in the day. 

Our children went to ECFE through the public schools -- we had a fantastic time meeting families and learning about child development. Our friendships from 10 years ago are among the strongest we have.

Kids have done swimming lessons and swim team.
Camps: nature camps, art camps, tech camp, sports camps, theater camp, animal-care camps.
Art classes.
Learn to sew classes. Learn to knit classes.
Soccer.
Open gym.
Ice skating.
Ballet.
Ultimate frisbee.
Chess club.
Music lessons/circles for kids: families singing together.
Spanish lessons.
Lego robotics clubs.
Downhill skiing.
Nordic skiing.
Musical instrument lessons.
Story time at the library.

And then there are all the fun parts about living here that let kids just be kids:
*Take your coffee and your toddlers/preschoolers/school aged kids to the beach and let the kids just explore. 
*Here's 5 bucks, run down to the store, buy some milk for me and yes, you can buy yourself a candy bar too. Be home in 40 minutes.
*Riding bikes.
*I'm getting my haircut. You go into the library. Come get me if you need me.
*Puddle boots and stream exploring.
*Outdoor recess at school, even during the cold cold weather.
*Beach afternoons in August rival our time spent on the Atlantic beaches.

I could go on. In a nutshell, we moved here for graduate school, fell in love with the city, had kids, and loved it even more. Jobs for highly educated people remain a problem. But the cost of living is decent compared to other places we have explored living.

Endion

about 4 years ago

Don't do it. Just kidding!

I grew up as the 5th generation from Minneapolis, but moved to Duluth over 10 years ago. This town is much tougher job-wise than the Twin Cities. We came here because my wife was offered a job and the housing market in the cities was unbelievably inflated. 10 years later and we have great jobs and a cheaper house with a beautiful view. It is much more of a struggle for that job, but when you get it you appreciate it more than maybe someone who has experienced the ease of the cities.

I used to miss a lot about the Twin Cities, especially the theater and that national bands came to town. With small children that isn't as important, but there are many great things to do with little ones up here. The key to being happy in Duluth is to go out and find things to do and see. Enjoy originality and accept that it won't have some things as easily available... At Valleyfair you get lots of rides, but if you go to the county fairs and the Timber Twister at Spirit Mountain you can enjoy the same kind of thing.  Willie Nelson at Target Center isn't as cool as Willie at Bayfront. 

It is a transient town more so than most Minnesota cities. Friends come and go, but I am in the opposite boat with my family bugging us constantly to move back to the Twin Cities. A few years ago I dropped my area-code and went all in for Duluth. It is tough here, but you don't sit in traffic jams and have to drive 30-40 minutes to get anywhere you need to go. Everything is a hop-skip-and-a-jump away here. 

I wouldn't move anywhere just to be close to family because family can move too. This also isn't a town to move to without a job. It is tough here, like the weather and the people. You have all the communities of the Twin Cities squeezed into a smaller area. 

My wife and I love Duluth and plan on staying here the rest of our lives. The schools are great here, but as in any city it all comes down to location, location, location.

jamesg

about 4 years ago

I moved to Duluth in 2003 after living in Minneapolis for 9 years.  I personally can't imagine living anywhere else at this point in my life.  All indications show that Duluth is a thriving city.  Companies in Duluth are actually having difficulties finding professional employees to fill many of the jobs that require an advanced degree.  Quality of life (if you love the outdoors) doesn't get any better.  If you really want to go to the Twin Cities area for entertainment...it's only a 2 hour drive.

Ramos

about 4 years ago

I would recommend watching "Return to Duluth" before making a decision.

The Prize Is Lobster

about 4 years ago

Duluth is great, but as someone who grew up in the area and now lives in Minneapolis I don't think I would ever move back. It's going to come down to personal preference. Do you like the anonymity aspect of Minneapolis i.e. being able to go into the grocery store without seeing people you know/work with, etc. Do you like the ability to go to new restaurants on a regular basis? Things like that. 

Visit your family more often, spend some time in town for longer than a weekend ... especially in the winter to get a feel for how things are. Then make a decision.

Endion

about 4 years ago

@The Prize

Good points. As someone who grew up in Minneapolis I forget about that anonymity aspect. I can't go anywhere without seeing people I know. The jobs are way more plentiful and high paying in the Twin Cities as well.

That being said, I think we have many new restaurants up here that are on par with the cities. My family constantly tells me how cold it is up here, but there isn't that much of a difference. Go to Saint Cloud in the winter where it is colder than here I think.

The grass always seems greener. I would suggest to anyone that they should live in different places in their lifetime. It is fun to get to know a new place or return to an old one. If I lived in another big city it wouldn't be Minneapolis though. I'd go bigger like Chicago - prettier and way more to do. I like living on the Great Lakes, but there is something to be said about living on the Mighty Mississippi too...

MomAH

about 4 years ago

We moved here 5 years ago for graduate school and did not plan on staying after the degree was done. We stayed. I am able to be a homemaker because my husband was able to get family-supporting employment. The company he is working for now was actively looking for people when they hired him and the company he recently left is also looking for people to fill professional jobs. 

I have two kids under 8 and think there is so much to do in Duluth with young children that often times on weekends it feels like there is too much to choose from, and many of the activities are free. 

The schools all seem OK, although you might want to look into the aspects of each one before picking a neighborhood. Like anything, they all have their pros/cons. Many have after school enrichment programs that are awesome. I know Lester Park has after school Spanish for all grades including kindergarten, and Lego robotics for older kids, while Myers-Wilkins has an after school cooking program that is well-received. One big challenge I see in the elementary schools is not having enough instructional time each week for art, music, and physical education. This is really something the district needs to fix.  Class sizes at the elementary still seem a bit big, but they have gotten smaller recently, or so it seems. There are many, many preschools to choose from that offer many different types of preschool experiences and we were quite happy with the ECFE program here. 

I don't feel like Duluth is on its way out anytime soon, We are happy with the opportunities here for our family and we voluntarily stayed even though there were "better" jobs on the table for us in other places after my husband finished his degree.

Jennifer Smith

about 4 years ago

Such a tough decision.  All of my friends and family are still in Duluth (and nobody plans to move away, ever), so we will really have to make some tough decisions.  I definitely know better than to come back without a job.  I do miss the lake too.

The Prize Is Lobster

about 4 years ago

In a lot of ways, the Duluth vs. Minneapolis discussion is an apples to Cadillacs comparison. I've noticed it more recently with postings on Facebook pages trying to actively market Duluth referencing people who got sick of ALL THAT TRAFFIC AND HUSTLE AND BUSTLE IN THE CITIES to move to Duluth. People sometimes act like it's a concrete jungle akin to New York or Detroit.

In fact, we're quite spoiled as Minnesotans to have such green areas to live. Minneapolis is a beautiful city that has a ton of nature and can be very serene and peaceful if you live in a neighborhood close to your job. You can easily forgo gridlock. 

That being said, if your expectation of Duluth is for it to be like a smaller scale Minneapolis ... you'll be disappointed. Restaurants there have sprouted up, and there are some great ones ... but I like trying new things. You could cover your ground on all of them there much quicker than I could here. Is that a good thing? Not necessarily, it's a matter of personal preference. If you're more into routine and such, this may not be an issue for you. 

It's simple conveniences that I'd be reluctant to sacrifice such as being able to order pizza at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday and/or going out to bars on the weekends without worrying about seeing an ex girlfriend/co-workers/people I don't want to see where if I do something stupid it might make its way back to the office on Monday. The job market is also much smaller, so the above can play a part into workplace politics/getting a new job, etc. 

It is a beautiful area, and it has come a long way even in 10 years ... but give it a good amount of thought as far as what you need out of where you live.

Herzog

about 4 years ago

Jesus Lobster Prize, got something you want to get off yer chest?  Anyway, unless you love living with two million people, the cities generally blow IMO. If you need to be that proximate for the next Gaga/Beeber event or enjoy watching some punk crap along the banks of the mighty Miss then the cities are probably for you.  Sure I like to visit there and take a stroll through old Saint Paul for nostalgia, dodge bullets on Payne Ave.  And yah, maybe I wish Duluth did restaurants or music less provincially, but now I enjoy the cities so much better when I visit, and suppose I'd feel the same way about Duluth if I wasn't here all the time.  Maybe I need Claire's job where I leave often enough so Duluth becomes this magical place when you use it as your base to see the rest of the world.  It's such a nice town to leave and come back to and just far enough from the cities to appreciate them from a distance.

So if your family and friends are important, I would focus on that. Chances are you'll get a job here, the housing will be cheaper, the nature and air much better. Plus, you're just not going to run into a half eaten deer carcass on Snelling like you would here. Kids need to see the brutal side of life to appreciate that balance. Schools themselves building-wise are great. The district just financed half a billion dollars on the backs of taxpayers for the next five decades to pay for those, even though the old ones were still pretty good, but the textbooks are probably left over from the Reagan era. Should they add French classes? Your child could probably YouTube French classes well enough. The best part about living here is simply that it's not so damned hot in the summer. It sure as hell isn't the downhill skiing. And that you can pick 45 pounds of blueberries in July, and stab an elk in your backyard.  Oh wait, that's Montana.

The Prize Is Lobster

about 4 years ago

*sigh*

Citing the first post:

I am sure you will get answers to your question that span from "Duluth has zillions of jobs and wonderful schools" to "there are no jobs here and the school board is comprised of bone heads."

We've come full circle. No one can tell you what's best for you. Consider what you need out of where you live and decide, but remember why you left in the first place.

Jennifer Smith

about 4 years ago

This was all really helpful, and entertaining. Thank you all for your feedback:)

Claire

about 4 years ago

I've lived in a lot of places, from rural to farm town to college towns to big city to this shining city on a hill on the edge of the universe. Any place is only as good as its people, esp.  the friends you make, in my estimation. If what's most important to you is your family, move back. But know that you will be making sacrifices, as Duluth doesn't have a lot of what big city residents take for granted. It does, however, have an amazing community and, of course, natural delights that take my breath away, even after living here for 20 years. Any place you live in, you will have advantages and disadvantages ... you have to decide what's most important to you to live a good life. No one else can make that decision for you. If you want to live surrounded by interesting people and against a stunning natural backdrop, including those awe-inspiring winter sunrises over the Big Lake, move here.  If you want new restaurants and lots of stores and the Mall of America and a major airport nearby, stay in Minneapolis.

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