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Mayor's Office

Duluth Prosperity Agenda

Executive Summary

Duluth is on the road to prosperity and a promising future. Duluth has tremendous potential to improve the lives of every community member and every neighborhood. In May 2008, a team of committed community members embarked on a mission to identify and address issues that impact community health, vitality, and sustained prosperity. Though several initiatives were in place, this group would align existing efforts which shared the same goal of harnessing the existing potential of the community to move every person towards sustainable prosperity. The group shared the belief that impacting five key areas in the community would produce positive results for the entire community such as increased business profitability, increased personal financial literacy, an expanded skilled workforce, and improved perceptions of the Duluth community.

The Prosperity Agenda team concentrated on five specific areas, which intrinsically complement each other and developed an index as a measurement tool to track progress:

Income/Poverty - Housing - Workforce - Education - Business Climate

Prosperity Index


The Duluth Prosperity Index is a way of measuring the overall financial health of people in Duluth using a wide variety of measures. This tool was developed with the assistance of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

There are five key elements of the Index:

  • Housing. 20 points. How much of the population is considered "cost-burdened" by spending more than 30% of their household income on housing. What percentage of single-family homes are owner-occupied?
  • Income and Poverty. 30 points. What percentage of the population has an income less than 200% of the federal standard for poverty? How close is Duluth's median household income to the state's median household income?
  • Workforce/Quality Jobs. 20 points. What is the average weekly wage that workers in Duluth earn and how close is it to the state's average weekly wage? What is the percentage of adults in Duluth that are in the workforce?
  • Education. 10 points. What is the total education level of everyone over 25 in Duluth?
  • Business Climate. 20 points. How many jobs are there in Duluth?

The elements were chosen because they represent data reflecting larger trends that have an impact on the overall prosperity of residents of Duluth. The index is designed to show progress - or challenges - by using scales that show changes in our underlying economy. There are many more bits of data that are measures of how a community is doing, but these were chosen because they are already collected annually and serve as jumping off points to further analysis.

The index is set at 100 for both Duluth and Minnesota so that trends can be seen over time. Each element will move slightly each year. Some of the measures - a measure of median income and another on the average weekly wage - are designed to measure the difference between the Minnesota number and the Duluth number.

The index features were chosen primarily because they are accepted measures of economic health of a community. Secondarily, they were also chosen because they are from reputable data sources, are already collected by government agencies, and fairly represent aspects of the economy in Duluth. The Prosperity Agenda team reviewed selections and made recommendations about the construction of the index, index movement. The data recommendations and development was done by the Regional Labor Analyst for Minnesota's Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The index is set to begin at 100 and fluctuate each year. Most data represents the prior year. American Community Survey data is typically available each September for the prior year. Minnesota DEED annual summary data is usually available in June or July.


As we invest and be proactive in each of the five areas, we will be able to realize dividends. With a positive shift in the index, we will see positive impacts in each of the five prosperity agenda items. Current and future investments could yield for Duluth:

  • increased business profitability
  • Increased equity and income
  • Increased educational achievements
  • Reduced crime
  • Increased tax base
  • Strengthened community pride
  • Stronger sustainable neighborhoods
  • Increased community health and wealth

To make progress towards prosperity, Duluth must patiently make long-term investments in its workforce, businesses, education, and community development.

The Prosperity Agenda Team consists of the following leadership:

Don Ness, Mayor of Duluth
Keith Hamre, City of Duluth, Manager of Community Development
Don Hoag, City of Duluth, Manager of Workforce Development
Tony Cuneo, Duluth City Councilor and Policy Director for the A.H. Zeppa Foundation
Paula Reed, United Way of Greater Duluth, President
Angie Miller, Community Action Duluth, Executive Director
David Ross, Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, President 
Pam Kramer, Duluth Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Executive Director
Rob West, Area Partnership for Economic Expansion, Executive Director
Ken Browall, Duluth News Tribunes, Publisher
Drew Digby, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Regional Analyst 


Using the American Community Survey. The ACS is still the best available data for most of these issues, but it's not perfect, especially in a community like Duluth with a large number of college students. Survey research is entering a particularly challenging time getting effective random responses in the age of cell phones and other distractions. The relatively high fluctuation among some ACS data has led the Census bureau to highlight 3-year and 5-year running averages rather than 1-year data. Still, because this index mixes multiple sources, we are using the 1-year data. Broad trends over several years will have more statistically viability than single year fluctuations, but the multiple sources of data should also add to the statistical value of the index. Although individual pieces of ACS data have margins of error, the combination of data does not allow for a simple margin of error. (For example, individual pieces of data from the ACS's chart on the percentage of income paid for housing has margins of error ranging from +/-0.7% to +/-3.4%.) As with all data like this, long-term trends from multiple data sources are more reliable than any single data point, which is the purpose of the index.
Emily Larson
City Hall, Room 403
411 West First Street
Duluth, MN 55802
218-730-5230, Fax: (218) 730-5904


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