It's no secret that there is a wealth of job openings right now - both nationally and right here, locally in Duluth, Superior and the surrounding region.  A variety of merging factors have created a situation that has business owners and employers struggling to fill the open positions they have.

And while the Twin Ports often gets recognized for high-visibility jobs like the medical field or the tourism industry, there are plenty of other jobs available - both as a general rule and especially right now. Some of those positions pay equally as well if not better.

One Twin Ports career that often gets overlooked in the process is in the industrial field.  And - according to recent job market studies - that's unfortunate.  A recent survey conducted by the Duluth Seaway Port Authority and referenced in the Superior Telegram details the benefits that industry has for both the local economy and job seekers alike.

Summarizing their findings, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority shared that "[i]ndustrial jobs in the...[area] pay higher annual wages than other jobs, leading to higher tax revenue, and are accessible to a wide range of educational backgrounds."  Taken together, the impact that industry offers to job seekers and the economy packs a powerful punch - one that can be longer lasting that other short-term positions.  Mark LaLiberte, Plant Manager for Duluth-based Compass Minerals - an employer that offers positions in the industry shared that "[j]obs associated with the port of Duluth-Superior have traditionally been jobs that support a meaningful standard of living for individuals and families."


One of the issues that industrial plant managers combat is that the open positions they have to offer often fly under the radar, with more attention paid to so-called white collar jobs in medical or the omnipresent relationship that the Twin Ports has with tourism.  While no one is knocking the impact those other fields have to offer, there is a sense of "invisibility" when it comes to the industrial world.

Another issue that industry fights is a rising retirement rate.  LaLiberte shared that "high retirement rates...[coupled with] limited exposure to trades in high schools across the past 25 years" has created a large number of openings right now - with plants scrambling to fill positions. "There are great wage and benefit opportunities in young adults who are interested in an alternative to attending a four-year college should consider the training and great opportunities provided in industrial jobs from day one."

Wide angle and perspective from textile factory
Mehtap Orgun

Here are some interesting facts and statistics gathered from the Duluth Seaway Port Authorities study - which was compiled with help from Northspan:

  • Duluth's industrial jobs pay an average wage ($68,913) compared to non-industrial jobs ($48,401) and the city's overall average ($51,012).
  • Growth in average industrial job income has outpaced growth in aggregate citywide income by more than 4% - meaning that those employed in the industrial field saw their incomes rise more than the average job in our area.
  • Duluth's industrial sector provided more than 9,800 direct jobs and supported nearly 8.200 additional industrial and non-industrial jobs in St. Louis County.
  • "Industrial jobs are accessible to people from a wide range of educational backgrounds (high school graduates, tradespeople, those with specialized technical training, college graduates, etc.)."

For many, the growth in the industrial workforce represents a path forward from dependence to what many call our regions singular economic vision.  Other economists cite the positive impact it will continue to have on our market economy as we continue both the response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and it's eventual recovery.

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For more results from the survey, click here.

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