Waterfront upgrade hints at bright future for Duluth; could create 2,000 port jobs

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Cost of upgrading a couple of old loading docks on Duluth's waterfront? $17.7 million.

Assuring that the Duluth port remains a competitive player in the future of international shipping and trade? Priceless.

On Wednesday, port officials broke ground on the large-scale project, which will expand the long-unused 'C' and 'D' docks and dramatically increase the Duluth Seaway Port Authority's ability to handle heavier loads and "project cargo," according to a news release.

As the Northland's News Center explains it, that means the docks will be able to transport heavy-duty gear like wind turbine parts, as well as oil-drilling and mining equipment.

The station says the site will also be getting a "roll on, roll off" dock – which allows vehicles and other wheeled equipment to be driven directly onto cargo ships – and have "twice the weight bearing capacity" of any Twin Ports dock.

The regional impact

Besides keeping Duluth at the forefront of global shipping, the expansion promises another bonus for the region – jobs. A lot of them.

A description of the project from state officials indicates the new dock will "contribute to 1,835 permanent jobs" in the port area, while construction on the pier promises to generate over 450 jobs.

It's good reason to celebrate, judging by the crowd at Wednesday's ground-breaking ceremony.

According to the Duluth News Tribune, two Minnesota congress members – U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Rick Nolan – were on hand, as was Obama-appointed Paul Jaenichen, U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administrator.

"This (project) really is a key and a springboard for the next 50 years of our development," a Port Authority executive told MPR.

Officials say it was made possible in part by a large federal grant aimed at spurring economic recovery through transportation infrastructure.

The first phase of construction is slated for completed in the fall of 2016.

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