Duluth City Council Disrupting our Twin Ports


Our beloved Duluth community’s fortunes are inextricably tied to the fortunes of our neighboring community of Superior, Wisconsin. Together, we are the enchanted Twin Ports. Our communities share the Great Lakes’ largest port. The Duluth-Superior Port is also the largest and farthest-inland freshwater seaport in North America.

Our communities are abundantly fortunate to be stewards of the largest, cleanest, wildest freshwater lake in the world. It is a treasure that we must protect with all of our collective might. We have been bequeathed this honor of stewardship by the Ojibway people who named the lake, Gitche Gumee, the shining big-sea-water.

Each year, the port handles an average of 46 million tons of cargo, transported by an average of 1,100 visits made by domestic and international vessels. Our shared port is our nation’s primary shipping port for taconite pellets, made from iron ore and destined for midwestern and eastern steel mills. Four major railroad companies haul products to and from our shared port. Iron ore and coal are the principal cargoes.

I share this detail to clearly illustrate that mining-related activity is the lifeblood of our shared port. Thousands of our neighbors, family members and friends draw their livelihoods from the power of work provided by our treasured, shared port.

Our beautiful sister city of Superior has identified that more than 1,000 jobs are provided by port-related activity. Another large employer in Superior is the pipeline industry and its related petroleum refinery industry. Enbridge has been a robust employer in Superior for 65 years. It lifts up 600 employees, and their families, in Superior and Duluth. Calumet Specialty Products Partners operates an extensive refinery in Superior, providing hundreds of jobs in our Twin Ports.

With the powerful and positive community impact of our port, mining, and the pipeline industry in mind; please ponder how excruciatingly painful it has been for many in our community to witness recent actions taken by a few Duluth City Councilors.

A few months ago, Duluth City Councilors Joel Sipress, Em Westerlund and Gary Anderson led the charge to have the Duluth City Council add a discretionary roadblock to PolyMet Mining’s rightfully onerous and demanding mining application and approval process. Fortunately, more balanced members of the Duluth City Council voted down their misguided initiative. Councilors Joel Sipress, Em Westerlund and Gary Anderson apparently were not appreciating the powerful and positive community impact that our port and mining have on our Duluth Superior community.

Disappointingly, approximately one month ago, Councilors Em Westerlund and Gary Anderson cosponsored a Duluth City Council resolution to support pipeline protesters situated hundreds of miles away in another state. Sadly, the resolution passed.

The Duluth Area Chamber’s leadership suspects that councilors did not fully understand and appreciate how offensive and disconcerting their action was to our friends, neighbors and family members who work in the pipeline and refinery industry.

It was heartbreaking and alarming to witness Duluth City Councilors appearing to be oblivious to the thousands of our community members employed by the pipeline industry. Council members showed more empathy for, and interest in, distant pipeline protesters.

Did our Duluth City Councilors inquire with our valued neighbors on the Superior City Council prior to passing a resolution supporting the pipeline protesters? Did Duluth’s City Councilors talk to our brothers and sisters in the building and construction trades employed doing pipeline work? Did councilors inquire with the dozens of Twin Ports companies that are sustained by pipeline and mining work? If they didn’t, they would do well to do so in the future. Their actions are disrupting our beloved Twin Ports.

It is regrettable that our friends, family members and neighbors living is Superior are being negatively impacted by the job-jeopardizing and negative actions of the Duluth City Council.

Let’s work together to guard against it happening again. The Chamber’s leadership invites our Twin Ports’ brothers and sisters to join us in encouraging Duluth City Councilors to show more appreciation for the jobs provided by local employers involved in the highly regulated mining and pipeline industries.

In unwavering support,


David Ross, President & CEO