Local Initiatives Support Corporation Duluth (LISC Duluth) celebrated its 23rd year on Sept. 22 with a virtual celebration, highlighting emerging opportunities and announcing their annual Building Healthy Communities award.

LISC, a non-profit intermediary, leverages resources into the community that would otherwise be unavailable to Duluth and serves as a convener- bringing residents, nonprofits, and public and private sector partners together. Its work includes supporting the development of safe, affordable housing, quality education, job training, financial coaching, digital access, entrepreneurship training, small business assistance and healthy food.

Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho joined the event for a live panel discussion with LISC CEO Maurice A. Jones to share insights on housing, economic development and racial justice during COVID-19. Duluth Mayor Emily Larson addressed the participants citing LISC’s partnership with the city as critical for moving projects forward.

“Our response has been to bring partners together to remove barriers to opportunities," said Pam Kramer, LISC Duluth’s executive director. "Examples include our efforts to support private investment in Opportunity Zone neighborhoods, as well as to help secure low cost capital needed to increase the availability of low cost capital needed to address Duluth’s extensive affordable housing needs.”

LISC Duluth announced the winner of their annual Building Healthy Communities Award, honoring Community Action Duluth for their leadership in response to COVID-19 to help those in the community secure digital access. This includes adapting their LISC-sponsored Bridges to Career Opportunities income building and job training program to work remotely and the creation of their TECH-UP program, which has distributed over 160 laptops and one year of free digital access to low-income households so far. “Community Action Duluth has been a leader in the effort to ensure all households are able to bridge the digital divide. We are very proud to present this award to Jeff Longenecker, executive director of Community Action Duluth and are excited about emerging efforts underway with them as a key partner with our new Duluth Digital Inclusion Partnership,” said Kramer.