The Northland’s Interconnected Industry

Growth for Twin Ports industry means expansion of other economic sectors, study finds.

The Twin Ports of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin form one of the globe’s most strategic industrial epicenters. Large proportions of the world’s iron ore, limestone, coal, and grain filter through the Duluth-Superior port on a yearly basis. As the continent’s innermost connection to international shipping via the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Twin Ports are also a crucial junction for natural resources including lumber and paper products.

In 2018, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority conducted its Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) Study in an effort to measure industry in the Twin Ports. A media release accompanying the study reported that “not only is this city’s industrial sector an important component of Duluth’s current economy, but it will also be the catalyst that spurs equitable growth across all other sectors to give Duluth a truly competitive advantage in attracting new companies and residents.”

Key findings of the study suggest that in the midst of constant evolution, the $3.8 billion industrial sector is as dynamic as it is diverse. Specifically, the study highlighted three emerging job clusters to watch, in addition to seven industrial groups already established in Duluth:

Together, these job clusters employ 9,449 Duluthians and support an additional 8,419 jobs in St. Louis County. Additionally, many industrial employers are currently looking to fill high-demand positions, indicating that the area’s capacity for industrial employment is even higher than current statistics reflect.

What’s more, Northland industry doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The ICIC found that changes within industry measurably impact other sectors in the region, including:

  • Professional, scientific and technical services
  • Wholesale trade and retail trade
  • Healthcare and social assistance
  • Lodging and food services

“Growth in industry supports the growth of other sectors in Duluth. If the industrial sector expands, these other sectors will grow as well,” the DSPA stated. “Collectively these sectors provide diversity with respect to career opportunities and tax base, while enhancing the quality of life for people in the community.”

The ICIC study further found that the majority of industrial jobs require less than a bachelor’s degree to enter, making them accessible to jobseekers across multiple education levels. These jobs also offer competitive benefits and opportunities for career advancement. In Duluth, they pay on average $14,000 more per year compared to average wages in the city overall.

“Industry continues to present a competitive advantage for both Duluth and the surrounding region and will drive future economic growth,” the report concluded.

See below for key excerpts from the DSPA’s ICIC Study, and visit Duluth Seaway Port Authority’s website for more info and resources on regional industry:



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