Howie Hanson

Howie Hanson is Duluth's first and only full-time blogger ( Hanson is generally regarded as Duluth's 'most-connected' journalist and active community-builder. He recently developed and continues to operate a daily news and activities site for Duluth Public Schools. Read more about Howie Hanson.

Terry Mattson: Let's make Minnesota more competitive

Posted by: Howie Hanson Updated: December 4, 2012 - 4:03 PM


Terry Mattson

Terry Mattson

A monthly column by Terry Mattson, Visit Duluth's President/CEO, which first appeared in Forum Communications' Duluth Budgeteer News weekly: 

In the coming weeks a fast growing number of us will be working closely with elected officials, constituents, suppliers, employees and partners positively putting forth a proposal important to our state's future. This is an opportunity to dramatically grow travel and tourism.

You see, Minnesota needs to step up and diversify its source of promotional funding in order to attract more out-of-state visitors. In fact, we need to reform how Minnesota funds tourism marketing to stay competitive. Tourism is fueled by promotion. Advertising requires investment. Minnesota is being significantly outspent by its competitors.

The Minnesota tourism budget ranks 30th in the nation and is at its 1990 dollar level. Nearby competitors, such as Wisconsin, South Dakota, Illinois, Michigan and Montana invest far more. We are losing the ability to even retain resident travel, let alone increase travel from other states and countries.

Tourism makes vast contributions to our quality of life. Hospitality generates $730 million in annual sales taxes collected on $11 billion of sales. Statewide, we employ 240,000 people (11% of private sector employment) from entry-level positions to high level managers and business owners. Tourism is documented as one of the better ways for generating employment and also rewards government with more tax revenue per dollars spent by consumers than other industries.

We can do even better for the residents of Minnesota!

The proposal pivots on a car-rental tax, established for the tourism industry hosting the Super Bowl. Afterwards revenues quietly then slipped into the general fund. If advertising were fueled by the 6.2% motor vehicle rental tax, the state's tourism investment would be $15 million. The current tourism budget of $8 million comes from the general fund.

The new performance-based plan makes perfect sense: visitors are paying to attract even more visitors. While not up to Michigan's $27 million, it would be competitive considering the average tourism office budget is $14 million.

There are many strong proponents of updating the antiquated model. Visit Duluth is in full support. Consider that based on a Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) study, the additional $7 million in advertising would generate more than a three-to-one return on investment through an estimated $24 million in new state and local taxes, $107 million in wages, 3,600 new jobs and $276 million in gross sales.

The new revenue from our guests would generate a significant return. It means more money for education, health care, natural resources, social services, transportation and more. There are very few ways government can generate revenues and jobs-tourism does both. It opens doors for all economic sectors. It portrays Minnesota as a good place to live, do business and play.

Marketing is an investment -- not a cost to taxpayers. Let's get the drum beat going!

-- Published with permission of Duluth Budgeteer News, Visit Duluth

Herb Bergson: 'Jon Donahue one of the kindest people I have ever met'

Posted by: Howie Hanson Updated: November 10, 2012 - 4:51 PM


A must-read blog by former Duluth and Superior mayor Herb Bergson:

"I first met Jon Donahue up in a Piedmont neighborhood. I was all alone putting up yard signs while I was running for mayor in the late summer of 2003. I had a request to put up a sign next door to him. I had no idea who Jon Donahue was at the time.

While I was putting up the yard sign next door, Jon Donahue stormed out of his front door and yelled, 'Hey, you can’t put that there!' I assumed I had the wrong address and asked him why not. He said, 'Because that sign needs to be in my yard.' I happened to have extra signs in the trunk of the car, so he got one also. That day started a wonderful friendship.Jon Donahue is one of the kindest people I have ever met. He cared for his wife Lisa while she battled cancer a few years ago (the experts said she would not make it, but she beat it) and they have three gorgeous children who worship the ground their parents walk on." Read more.

Photo: The Donahue family. Jon's Facebook page.



Minnesota's prep boys hockey teams, players to watch

Posted by: Howie Hanson Updated: November 22, 2012 - 11:31 AM

MN Hockey Hub managing editor Loren Nelson on Minnesota high school boys hockey teams and players to watch in 2012-13:

Top Teams

Class 2A -- Clear division of top three and then mass of 10 to 15 teams in the everyone else category:

1. Benilde-St. Margaret's
2. Edina
3. Eden Prairie
4-15. Everyone else 

Best of everyone else category most likely will include Duluth East and Minnetonka. Eagan could be surprisingly good this year. Watch out for Andover!

Class 1A -- Clear division of one team, and one team only, and everyone else.

1. St. Thomas Academy

Best competition for STA might very well come from the same section in Totino-Grace. Breck should also be good again, as usual. Look for St. Cloud Cathedral to give Hermantown all it can handle in what should be a highly competitive section.

Top Players

Forwards -- Connor Hurley of Edina, Shane Gersich of Holy Family Catholic and Grant Besse of Benilde-St. Margaret's are your must-see forwards. Incredible talent among those three. NHL scouts are drooling over Hurley and Gersich. Besse doesn't have the size of those two, but is one of the best pure goal scorers to come through the state in a while.

Defensemen -- A bunch of teams have great one-two combos on D:

Edina: Parker Reno and Matt Nelson

Minnetonka: Tommy Vannelli and Jimmy Schuldt

Hermantown: Neal Pionk and Jake Zeleznikar

Goaltenders -- Chase Perry of Andover is as good as it gets. The junior has to be considered the best goaltender in the state.

St. Thomas Academy's David Zevnik has "two-time state champ" on his resume. Hunter Shepard of Grand Rapids is rock solid.

. . .

MN Hockey Hub managing editor Loren Nelson played high school and college hockey in Minnesota and has been a sports journalist for more than 20 years.

He has worked at news organizations in southern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida and California. Nelson has won numerous local, state and national awards for his column, enterprise and feature writing on topics ranging from pee wees to the pros, including Stanley Cup runs by the Tampa Bay Lightning and Anaheim Ducks.

A sports editor for much of his career, Nelson has overseen departments that consistently have produced sections that rank among the best in the nation as judged by the Associated Press Sports Editors. -- MN Hockey Hub bio



Many of the world’s top professional snowmobile racers — including Minnesota’s Tucker Hibbert of Pelican Rapids, Robbie Malinoski of Lino Lakes and Duluth’s Bobby “The Rage” LePage — will compete in the Duluth National Snocross on Nov. 23-25 at Spirit Mountain. A crowd of over 30,000 is expected to watch the world’s best snowmobile racers flying their factory-backed sleds. Read more.

Snocross pix / Visit Duluth


Howie: Visit Duluth president & CEO lands hospitality industry's Vision Award

Posted by: Howie Hanson Updated: October 17, 2012 - 4:11 PM

The unprecedented rainfall and flash flooding of June 20, 2012 left an immediate mark on Duluth and its neighboring towns.

Amid the damage, many feared the local hospitality industry would take a massive perception hit. But local citizens and leaders came together, acting fast and working hard to make sure would-be summer visitors knew that Duluth was still open for business.

People like Terry Mattson (right), the president and CEO of Visit Duluth, the city’s official destination marketing organization, was recognized with a 2012 Vision Award for Leadership by the editors of Meetings: Minnesota’s Hospitality Journal ( He was presented with the award September 27 in Minneapolis.

The Best in Minnesota’s Hospitality Industry Leadership Award, bestowed for calling others into action and making an impact, is one of seven Vision Awards that celebrate professionals who demonstrated best practices over the past year.

It’s exactly what Mattson did in the aftermath of the storm — immediately working with city, state and federal officials to create a unified message that the city’s tourism infrastructure was undamaged and ready for business. The slogan, “Duluth is open for you” was created and infused into a strategic communications plan for traditional and social media.

In countless news interviews, the message of reassuring travelers that they could still come to Duluth had to be carefully crafted so as not to minimize the significant damage that had occurred to residential areas and surrounding communities.

It paid off, according to one indicator: Duluth tourism tax collections increased by five percent in July 2012 over July 2011 — despite the storm and its publicity aftermath.

“Terry Mattson leads with a passion and desire to serve the best interests of our community,” said Anna Tanski, Visit Duluth director of sales and marketing. “He opened clear channels of communication between industry stakeholders and multiple agencies. He gathered input and feedback, then set a plan in motion based on one collective voice. Without his proactive leadership, the negative impact to Duluth’s tourism industry could have been devastating.”

Visit Duluth is Duluth’s only officially recognized destination marketing organization. Chartered in 1935, it represents approximately 400 businesses that make up Duluth’s tourism industry and is dedicated to promoting the area as one of America’s great vacation and meeting destinations — providing comprehensive, unbiased information to all travelers. 

Meanwhile, here's a YouTube blog Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, posted during the height of the flood:

Lake Superior Magazine names 2012 Achievement Award winner

Lake Superior Magazine has named the winner of its 2012 Achievement Award – The Bad River Watershed Association. The award was announced in the October/November issue of Lake Superior Magazine currently available on the newsstands.

The award will be formally presented at the November 15 meeting of the association in the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute building at Northland College, Ashland, Wisconsin, at 6 p.m.

The Bad River Watershed Association (BRWA), based in Ashland, was formed in 2002. Its mission encompasses education about the watershed, developing ways to connect residents to the watershed and activities geared toward protecting the water quality of the rivers, streams and Lake Superior.

Despite the small size of the area population and of the association membership, the group has undertaken many ambitious and critical projects within and slightly beyond the large watershed. Volunteers do regular monitoring of water quality, establishing a base of data helpful in reviewing future developments.

The association has connected federal programs to local governments to replace inadequate culverts in the district and for other projects. It has also begun working with landowners to encourage water-health practices.

“Our annual Achievement Award is meant to honor and call attention to the work of groups or individuals who have significantly contributed to the well-being of Lake Superior and its people,” said Lake Superior Magazine Editor Konnie LeMay. “For us, the Bad River Watershed Association is a perfect choice. It demonstrates through its staff and volunteers that people can make a difference for water quality. The association also can serve as a true role model for other small communities around Lake Superior also interested in protecting their watersheds.”

Lake Superior Magazine began giving out an annual Achievement Award in 1994. The bimonthly, full-color magazine has subscribers in all 50 U.S. states, most Canadian provinces and 26 foreign countries. It is part of the family-owned Lake Superior Port Cities Inc. with offices at 310 E. Superior St., Ste. 125, Duluth, MN 55802. The 33-year-old company produces books, calendars, maps, posters and its Lake Superior Collection of products. For details, visit or call 888-BIG LAKE (888-244-5253) or 218-722-5002.

-- Sources: Visit Duluth, YouTube, Lake Superior Magazine

Howie Blog: Wreck presented today, Wednesday in Duluth

Posted by: Howie Hanson Updated: October 9, 2012 - 4:04 PM

Minneapolis-St. Paul professional dance theater Black Label Movement, in partnership with Duluth-based Zeitgeist Arts, will present Carl Flink's critically-acclaimed evening length work Wreck at 7:30 p.m. today and Wednesday at historic Clyde Iron Works in Duluth. Read more.

Tweetsville: Former Gophers hoops legend Rick Rickert scored two new pairs of sneakers, here.


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