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Duluth working toward becoming a world-class city

DULUTH - Mayor Nancy Harris told business and civic leaders gathered for the 2009 State of the City Address on Tuesday that Duluth is in the process of becoming a world-class city.

The mayor and council are working toward achieving world-class status for the city, Harris said. "We're looking closely at our processes. We're trying to be wise. We're trying to look for opportunities. We want to think regionally. We're relying on good leadership, and we want Duluth to be a destination city," she said.

Duluth has 28,000 residents and is close to becoming the second largest city in Gwinnett County, Harris said. The city is fortunate to be located near Atlanta and its international airport, she said.

In making plans and decisions, Duluth leaders stay focused on their vision for the city and rely on the latest information and research, Harris said.

The mayor also praised city department heads for their guidance. "They are a smart group of people," she said.

The city provides ways for residents to be heard on issues and encourages community involvement, the mayor said. "We want to partner with all our citizens, and we value the diversity of Duluth."

Duluth works closely with the state, Gwinnett county government, regional agencies, the county school system, the Gwinnett chamber and other entities, Harris said. Mayors of cities in Gwinnett are also working together, she said.

The mayor reviewed some of the city's accomplishments and future projects including the adoption of a 2030 Comprehensive Plan that will serve as a guide for future development, transportation improvements, and downtown revitalization.

The new Duluth City Hall and the Town Green have set standards for quality development, Harris said, citing Duluth Downtown, a recently constructed mixed-use building across from City Hall, as an example.

The city wants to provide incentives for business to locate in Duluth and is creating a tax allocation district as a way to do this, Harris said. "We want to make Duluth a place where it's easy to do business," she said, through clear and consistent processes and excellent customer service.

The mayor mentioned the Red Clay Theatre and the Southeastern Railway Museum as attractions that contribute to Duluth's becoming a destination city as well as the proximity of the Arena at Gwinnett Center and the Hudgens Center for the Arts. The city needs to attract new shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, she said, since a world-class city offers a lot of amenities.

Harris emphasized, however, that she wants Duluth "to remain a charming town," citing a nationwide trend for people to move to cities like it.

The process of becoming a world-class city is "exciting and challenging," Harris said. "I hope that today, if I've done anything, I've put a spark in you to become a part of the vision for your hometown of Duluth."

The luncheon was sponsored by the Duluth Civitan Club, the Korean-American Association and Korean Television Network, which provided its KTN Ballroom as the site. The 175 dignitaries and guests in attendance were welcomed by Duluth Civitan President Melvin Buchanan and Korean American Association Chief Operating Officer Sang H. Kim. Kurt's Restaurant of Duluth catered food for the luncheon.