Six years ago, the Chamber set out to more fully understand the experiences developers encountered when they moved potential projects through the City of Duluth’s Planning & Construction Services Department. We interviewed several individuals who had shepherded building and expansion projects through City Hall.
It was an education. We shared our findings with the City’s leadership team. We conveyed what we had learned in the spirit of providing City decision-makers the candid feedback they needed to champion additional, positive change within their project review and approval process.
This story has a happy ending. We were able to challenge the process while concurrently affirming the increasing number of positive encounters experienced by developers. The leadership team at City Hall indicated a willingness to fully consider our recommendations. Improvements were made.
There is more good news. Last year, Councilor Noah Hobbs established, and led, the Red Tape Reduction Taskforce. I was privileged to serve on the taskforce. We recently concluding our work and provided the Duluth City Council with our recommendations. We intended to make it easier for entrepreneurs to do business in our beloved Zenith City. We provided the Council specific details regarding how best to bring additional efficiency and predictability to the project review and approval process.
The City has been incorporating these incremental customer service improvements. Then, earlier this month, Mayor Larson and Chief Administrative Officer, Noah Schuchman, implemented a bold, positive change. With a commitment to improving customer service and reducing red tape the City combined two departments – Business & Economic Development with Planning & Construction Services. Mayor Larson and Noah Schuchman indicated they are motivated to have this combined initiative provide greater consistency and transparency in the project development process.
The newly formed Planning & Economic Development Department brings the City of Duluth into alignment with other Minnesota cities. The clear trend is to combine these economic development and community planning initiatives.
The Chamber’s leadership applauds this encouraging step forward. We appreciate that it was one of Noah Schuchman’s first impacts in his new leadership role at City Hall. We will continue to partner with Mayor Larson and her team as we, together, strive to illustrate that Duluth is a great place to do business. Duluth’s future is bright.