The luncheon was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, and it featured as its guest speaker the mayor who has led an attitude adjustment for the better in Duluth. But even though an over-the-top dollop of optimism and enthusiasm had to be expected — and certainly was delivered — don’t discount it or dismiss it as just fluff or as only happy talk. No way.

That’s because “our boosterism is based in reality,” as Mayor Don Ness told business leaders last week at the outset of a yearlong goodbye to an office he has held since 2008 and soon will be vacating. “Our unemployment rate is at 3.4 percent. We’re seeing local companies investing in our community, doubling down on Duluth because they feel it’s a good investment. … The reason for our optimism is well-founded.”

In the past five years, Duluth’s population of 25- to 34-year-olds has increased by more than 20 percent, Ness said.

What could be more encouraging than that?

“These aren’t college students. These are former college students [who] found a job in the city of Duluth and are committed to staying here,” Ness said. “This is the generation that maybe hasn’t started a family yet, they may not have bought their first house yet, but in the next five or 10 years they’re going to be making those investments — those life changes will be coming for them.”

Duluthians went online in droves last year to brag up their hometown, to cast votes on its behalf and to win for it a best-city-ever-anywhere honor.

“Imagine that same contest held 20 year ago [or even] 10 years ago. Would our community have stepped up [then] the way we did now and express our pride to the nation? I think not,” Ness said. “Now we’re seeing the potential. We’re seeing the strengths of the organizations and the leaders in our community, and we’re saying, ‘Boy, this world is full of possibilities. Our community can do great things.’ ”