You might know that our Northland community of Duluth, Minnesota was extraordinary to us during Intuit’s Small Business Big Game contest. So much so, that when the call came to help with Duluth’s nomination in the Outside Magazine “Best Place to Live” contest, we couldn’t say no. LoLa is a busy chick, but you can’t turn your back on your buddies.
Below is an essay I wrote about our successful campaign. Photo by Hansi Johnson.
When I moved to Duluth, I knew
this place was different. It was
the footwear. Looking
around at business meetings, folks wore
appropriate office attire – that is, until one
gandered under the conference table. Dress
pants, skirts and even business suits were
paired with sport sandals and lightweight
hiking boots. In most places this wouldn’t
fly, but clearly Duluth was not trying to be
All of my alternatively shod co-workers
weren’t just posers flashing brand names.
These were people who’d biked to the office,
were running over lunch or had a postwork
plan for that bike or kayak on their
roof rack. These mid-week warriors weren’t
waiting for the weekend.
So while it wasn’t a surprise that Outside
Magazine nominated Duluth as one of 64
“Best Places to Live,” we were unlikely to
come out on top. I mean, there were cities
with bigger populations and flashier scenes
from Missoula to Boulder to Santa Barbara.
This raises the question then: How did Duluth
best out all these great towns?
Everyone knows we’ve got the outdoor
goods – the Superior Hiking Trail, the
creeks, the bike paths and, of course, Lake
Superior. But what might be news is that our
small Northland city has some savvy.
Many professional photographers willingly
gave their beauty shots to Destination
Duluth, a website and popular Facebook
page that snapped up the web address VoteDuluth.
com. This was happening just as
the one-man band at Beau Walsh Design
crafted a whimsical look for the campaign,
and volunteers created new Twitter and
Instagram accounts. Residents dispersed to
their favorite spots for selfies, holding signs
with the hashtag VoteDuluth.
And when the call was put out to our local
media, they responded with outsized
hearts! News crews hauled their notebooks
and bulky cameras to the bike trails of Spirit
Mountain, hiked up Rock Knob at Hartley
Nature Center and turned out to capture
UMD paddlers dodging ice chunks in June
– lined up by our friends at the International
Mountain Bike Association.
The word was amplified. Expert targeting
by aimClear sharpened our social media
edge. And across Duluth and Minnesota,
anchors, DJs, reporters, celebs, government
officials, venerable brands and sassy startups
all urged their friends to get out the click.
There are way too many contributors to
mention by name. What started as a hopeful
Facebook post from Visit Duluth in mid-May
ended with some 30 professionals around a
table in June. Of course, the Mayor was enthusiastically
there through every step.
But I think the real secret, technology
aside, is that Duluth is a giant small town
– one where we truly need each other. It’s
an interesting lot who chooses to live alongside
this gorgeous and temperamental midcontinent
sea. Perhaps, because of it, we’re
generally accepting of all those alternative
drummers who keep Duluthians marching
to the off beat.
For this moment, our wonderfully quirky
community came together with one voice.
I’m happy to say I was there, as we belted
out Vote Duluth together, tapping our wellworn
sneakers to the rhythm of our city, a
great place to live. —dsl
Lucie Amundsen ghostwrites for a chicken at
Locally Laid Egg Company