Friday, January 18, 2013

With 2,700 Jobs on the Way, Duluth Needs Workforce Housing Options

Duluth, MN ( - With Kestrel Aircraft expecting 500 additional jobs by 2016, AAR and Maurices expecting to bring a combined 400 jobs by summer, and expansions at Altec Hiline and Kuettel & Sons also boosting those figures, it seems like job growth in the Northland workforce market is back on track.

According to DEDA Executive Director Christopher Eng, now we need to find a place to put these estimated 2,700 new employees.

"These are good–paying jobs. These are $60,000 – $80,000 jobs. Those folks are going to be looking for housing opportunities, and we want them to choose Duluth," said Eng.

While Eng says high–end retirement–style housing is more than adequate in the city, there's a significant shortage of workforce housing.

"And that's the homes... in the range of about $180,000 – $200,000," said Eng.

Some are contributing the nationwide housing construction boom to low–interest housing and construction loan options that banks and credit unions have been advertising, which Duluth Teachers Credit Union Assistant VP of Lending Bryan Lent says are just as available in the Northland.

"It really boils down to how they can build, [and] how much equity they need to bring to the table, which creates some hurtles at the time of initiating," said Lent.

Along with that, Lent says the lean toward buying already built homes over building is still keeping workforce housing construction slow.

So, what's going to get the workforce housing construction on the fast–track?

According to Eng, the problem might actually result in the solution, as the need for construction should bring in the contractors.

"That will bring some of those builders back to Duluth, and we'll see some new construction happening—I'm hoping—as early as this spring," said Eng.

...promising news for the 2,700 or so new employees that will need it.

And where did many of the builders and contractors flock to?

According to Eng, where the jobs are, which, in large, has been in North Dakota with their recent boom in the oil industry.


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