Will construction projects boost Duluth?

As we map the economic stories of Minnesotans in this recession, it’s not often we get one labeled “good news.” So it caught our attention when Bill Punyko emailed recently to say, “Duluth/Superior doing OK.”

Punyko, a source in MPR’s Public Insight Network, lives in Duluth and is assistant principal at Superior High School across the border in Wisconsin. He wrote to tell us his family was putting off a car purchase because of the economy. But then added:

Locally Duluth/Superior is going to do OK. With the Duluth school district’s construction plan and Enbridge Enterprises’s pipeline expansion, we’ll be looking at a few thousand jobs being our own local stimulus package.

The Enbridge expansion is a controversial project that would bring tar-sands oil from Canada into the U.S. Some environmental and American Indian groups are suing to stop it, though the U.S. State Department backed a permit a few weeks ago.

The Duluth schools plan is also controversial, though a recently published study commissioned by the Duluth Chamber of Commerce says the plan will create more than 1,600 jobs and offset the recession in Duluth.

I’d love to hear from folks in the Duluth/Superior area about their economy and the prospects for a mini-stimulus from the Enbridge and Duluth schools projects.

While Duluth’s shipping traffic’s taken a hit this year, the region’s economy has weathered the recession decently. Its unemployment rates have stayed below the state average.

Could Duluth end up leading the way out of recession? Please post below or use this form to tell us what you’re seeing.

9/16 UPDATE: My MPR colleague Tom Robertson reports on the pipeline’s positive economic impact in northern Minnesota.

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