The Twin Ports is probably best known for a couple things: undisputed beauty and its postindustrial economic apocalypse. In the 1980s, it once sported the billboard, “Will the last one leaving Duluth please turn out the light?”
But the light remained on and recently you’ve likely heard it buzzing, sparking even.
I’ve long held that the distance between the Twin Ports and the Twin Cities isn’t just measured in mileage. There’s something nearly quantifiable in the attitude spread. Perhaps in a place with fewer cubicles to fill, the entrepreneurs and creatives have more space to stretch out; do their thing.
And you don’t have to take my word for it. Writer James Fallows in a recent Atlantic magazine feature highlighted Duluth in his article about rebounding America. He cited industry leaders such as Cirrus Design, Loll, Epicurean and our high quality of life — as noted by our hard fought Outside Magazine award win. (It was worth the callus on our clicking finger, as we’ve been on more “Top Places to Visit” lists than ever.)
But Duluth is more than jobs and accomplishments. It always has been. There’s a certain forgiveness for late onset adulthood here. Some of us have avoided it altogether, pursuing art, music, sport, a passion — and our city is lucky to have its citizenry recognized for it. Musician Gealynn Lea wowed us by winning the NPR’s 2016 Tiny Desk Contest taking her fiddle to the national stage. Also sharing the spotlight is our own Rachael Kilgour, bringing home 14th Annual NewSong Showcase & Competition Finals to play at Lincoln Center in New York City. And that’s just to mention two.
In Locally Laid, a memoir about starting our so-named egg farm, I write about Duluth like it’s a character, like a friend of mine. And one that’s been vital to our success. It felt like the community saw in us the same “unlikely to succeed” under doggedness as Duluth itself. We became the little chicken that could — the flightless bird that soared.
All these business and artists might have been able to succeed elsewhere, but I’m guessing they wouldn’t want to move to find out.
--- Lucie Amundsen is the author of the book, Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm — from Scratch.