Case Study: Update of DSPA’s Industrial Sector Study

Challenge: The Duluth Seaway Port Authority (DSPA) recently engaged Northspan to help update a 2018 study by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) which evaluated contribution from the industrial sector to the Duluth area economy. The DSPA sought to measure the economic impact of Duluth industry and update key findings with the newest available data. The intention was to illustrate the full potential of responsible industrial opportunity in Duluth and galvanize support for Duluth’s industrial sector from the public and private sectors for coordinated economic development strategies in tandem with other sectors of Duluth’s economy.  

Role: Northspan collected, analyzed, and compiled the most recent available data (from 2019) including the number of industrial jobs within the city as well as related non-industrial jobs in St. Louis County. The process quantitatively measured the Duluth industrial sector’s generation of business revenues and contributions to state and local taxes. Northspan also analyzed average annual wages for industrial and non-industrial jobs in the area.    

Results: The 2019 data not only supported the previous findings of the original ICIC study (which were based on 2016 data) that industry provides a strong economic foundation for Duluth, but also indicated an increasing contribution from the industrial sector to Duluth’s economic vitality and community infrastructure. Key findings of the economic value and social significance of Duluth’s industrial sector include:  

  • Duluth’s industrial jobs pay higher average annual wages ($68,913) than non-industrial jobs ($48,401) and the city’s overall average ($51,012). 
  • Since the 2018 ICIC study, growth in average industrial job income has outpaced growth in aggregate citywide income by more than 4%.  
  • On a per-job basis, Duluth’s industrial sector generates 3X more tax revenue and supports 2X as many additional jobs compared to the rest of Duluth’s economy. 

Additionally, as noted in the original ICIC study, industrial jobs are accessible to people from a wide range of educational backgrounds (high school graduates, tradespeople, those with specialized technical training, college graduates, and others), providing an opportunity for equitable growth. 

“Growing the industrial sector in this community, and with it, the number of accessible jobs with higher wages, will create a stronger, more sustainable future for Duluth,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “It’s an opportunity to work together to provide vision, commitment, land and policy-making that puts Duluth in a competitive position compared to its peer cities.” 

You can read more about the key findings in Business North and also find more information on the DSPA’s website, including the DSPA’s August 30 press release with further details on the updated study results.     

Reference: Duluth Seaway Port Authority Director of Communication and Marketing Jayson Hron,, (218) 727-8525