There’s much to love about our enchanting city — the breathtaking views, the closeness we feel as community members, the intimate connection we have with Lake Superior and its surrounding environment. Those reasons are exactly why, back in 2013, my then-fiancé and I chose to move to Duluth from Fargo, N.D. We wanted to live somewhere with an entirely different aesthetic from the Red River Valley yet be close enough to visit family and friends on weekends. The North Shore of Lake Superior was, and still is, a perfect fit.
As a newcomer, it took me an unexpectedly long time to feel bound to our community — more so than other cities I’ve lived in. Most of my initial connections were with coworkers and members of the Rotary Club of Duluth, which I joined through work. These individuals took my husband and I under their wings, providing advice and recommendations for what neighborhood to live in, what doctors to see and what companies to call for air conditioning repairs or garbage service. I trusted these men and women, and to this day, they haven’t let me down.
Through their guidance and personal experience, I’ve learned what roads to avoid in morning traffic (note to self: stay away from London Road at all costs) and what restaurant to bring tired, hungry visitors to (it seems obvious, but Duluth Grill hands-down). And eventually, I’ve become used to the bumpy, potholed streets, and how we let deer wander around like they own this city.
Right when I moved here, I fell in love with the coziness of our neighborhoods, the winding, tree-lined streets and the unbelievable hills, which are a drastic change from my former, flat home. With time, I’ve come to adore the people of this city, too. In my work as a freelance writer and communications consultant, I get to go out and meet people across this community – hearing their dreams and sharing their stories. As my business has grown, and I meet more people, this warmth I feel in my chest for Duluth has deepened and become rooted.
This move has not been without its hardships. As someone who has lived in seven cities spread out over five states, I’m used to being new to town. Though upon moving here, my husband and I instantly realized the immense importance of personal, long-term relationships, and it takes a while to build those. Where we’re from in North Dakota, change has been constant since the start of the oil boom in the mid-2000s. There, a significant portion of our friends and colleagues were recent transplants.
Initially I struggled, along with many out-of-towners and recent college graduates, to find a job in my field here. I know the same happens for people who’ve lived here all their life, but I think it’s a lot harder when your phone’s area code isn’t 218.
Before I came here, I was an experienced news anchor and reporter with two Bachelor’s degrees. I applied for jobs for six months prior to our move, with no bites on positions where I met the qualifications. Thankfully, with time, I started getting interviews. During one, I had a hiring manager ask me why he should choose me when there are so many local, qualified candidates who should get the job first. At the time, I was shook. Sure, the question posed another opportunity for me to share my strengths, but the question stung and I choked on my answer. He raised the question that I feel hiring managers silently asked themselves since I began applying — “why hire a transplant when there are so many qualified locals?”
My first solid job opportunity came five months later, after nearly a year of searching. I got a job, which wasn’t in my field, partly because a new friend recommended me, and thankfully, over time, I navigated back into communications. In my days spent mentoring college students since moving here, I’ve heard students voice the same concerns about job opportunities here. As a business owner, there’s part of me that worries I’ll lose out on new business simply because I’m not a “local” yet, though I’m grateful my growing client list is so far proving me wrong.
Today, I serve on the board of Northforce and can say with certainty that there are dedicated individuals working to address the job issue for both locals and out-of-towners. By providing this type of one-on-one support and guidance for both candidates and employers, it helps businesses locate top talent and jobseekers find the perfect fit. I can’t speak highly enough of the work the organization is doing to keep people who live here, local or not, in the best workplace possible.
Job opportunities aside, there are times when I wish I could look at Duluth from a local’s perspective, someone who has lived here since birth and witnessed its development through time. This is now my city, and I crave to be more connected to it. I’m desperate to know more of its history, its strengths and its ongoing problems. I read the Duluth News Tribune online most days and have joined local groups which help me learn more about the region. With each tiny bit of knowledge I glean, like what invasive plants grow here or what role the Clean & Safe Team has, my connection deepens.
With the press Duluth has received, in combination with its already incredible, intangible assets, it’s no wonder more and more people are moving here. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s gorgeous, the people are great, and if you can handle the weather, recreational opportunities are abundant.
Being new to Duluth is no small feat — it can be exceedingly joyful and very overwhelming, both at the same time – though if done right, it’s the best decision of one’s life.
Locals, I beg you to reach out with open arms when you meet an out-of-towner. Consider showing them around and introducing them to this place and its people. It’s their responsibility to learn about the city they live in, but it’s our responsibility to be welcoming Minnesotans. And for those new to Duluth, put on a smile and have the courage to walk up to someone and make a friend. The people are nice here. With a little bit of effort, you’ll feel like a local in no time.
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