Twin Ports colleges, businesses team up on research

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Business groups and Duluth-area colleges are teaming up on research, including new consumer and business confidence surveys, to help spur economic growth in the region.

Researchers will also analyze the regional workforce, demographics and housing stock in a 15-county region across Minnesota and Wisconsin. The goal is to arm business and community leaders with data to help them with strategic planning.

"If we can provide additional information through the research, and make it available to businesses that would like to locate up here, I think we can boost the local economy and make things happen here," said Steven Burgess, chief executive of the National Bank of Commerce in Duluth, which is coordinating and funding the research.

Staff and students at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, University of Wisconsin-Superior, and College of St. Scholastica, will do the research. The group will release its first findings twice a year, starting with a regional forum next March.

Getting new information every six months means "companies will be able to more confidently consider new opportunities while also tracking this region's progress compared to other regions of the country," said Burgess, who unveiled the new effort on Monday.

Some of the data the project will collect has never been generated for this region before, added College of St. Scholastica economist Bob Hoffman.