Our community’s ability to retain its vibrancy depends, in part, on our capacity to offer an appealing place in which to live. We must continue to impress Duluthians and attract newcomers to our beloved Shining City on the Hill.
One way Duluth can remain enticing is by offering citizens and visitors vistas and structures that embody community pride and optimism for the future. The Lakewalk is such a place. The AMSOIL Arena is such a building. Bayfront Park and, now, Pier B, are such places.
Unfortunately, the former composite board manufacturing plant, which is often referred to as the Superwood Plant, is not such a place. The site has been dormant since Georgia-Pacific shuttered it in 2012. This abandoned 19 acre manufacturing site is on full display for travelers on Interstate 35 who pass within a few feet of the property.
This dormant, darkened manufacturing site has been the antithesis of what a vibrant community should display. It has been an unwelcome reminder of the hardship and decline that occurred within our community in the 1970’s, when unemployment reached 16%. This is when manufacturing plants, located in Duluth, were routinely left to decay. U.S. Steel closed its doors in 1971. Other manufacturing businesses in our western neighborhoods also boarded up windows and went dark.
The vacant Georgia Pacific site is to Duluth what Jacob Marley was to Ebenezer Scrooge – the Ghost of Christmas Past. Yet, the story of A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens, has a triumphant, happy ending. So, too, does the story of the unoccupied Georgia Pacific site.
A few weeks ago, the Duluth News Tribune notified our community that Jeff Foster, the owner of Jeff Foster Trucking, purchased the Georgia Pacific site. This is energizing and uplifting news.
Jeff Foster is a community treasure who, for decades, has brought investment, jobs and optimism to our Twin Ports. He is a hometown kid who, because of this hard work, guts and tenacity, has become a wildly successful business owner. Jeff will make a glory of the site. We can look forward to seeing activity, jobs and investment returning to this land of opportunity.
So, the next time we are driving on Interstate 35, and pass by what is now the Jeff Foster site, let’s tip our hat, or our winter cap, to Jeff Foster. He is our neighbor and friend who is investing his time and treasure in revitalizing this industrial site. Thank you, Jeff Foster.
David Ross, President & CEO