Foundation hopes to make cities better

Participants at the Tuesday information session explained some potential projects that would improve Duluth if provided with Knight Foundation funding.

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As the former home to a Knight Ridder newspaper, Duluth is among 26 communities eligible to receive grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation designed to make the city more successful. The competition, however, is stiff.

“We had many, many applications from Duluth the first year but no finalists,” Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation President Holly Sampson noted at a Tuesday session designed to educate those who seek to compete for part of this year’s $5 million allocation. The results were better in 2015 – three Duluth proposals became finalists to receive a grant in the Knight Cities Challenge – and promoters hope there will be more successful proposals this year.

“We’re looking for big ideas … ones that stand out nationally … that can stand out as a national model,” said George Abbott, special assistant to the vice president for community and national initiatives at the Knight Foundation. “Our interest is making those (26) communities successful.”

The Knight Cities Challenge is looking for projects that:

• Attract and retain talented people.

• Expand the city’s economic prospects.

• Create a culture of civic engagement.

“We want to learn how to create economic opportunity by bridging the divide between rich and poor and determine pathways,” Abbott said.

Recent grants have ranged from $6,900 to $600,000. They tend to average in the range of $80,000 to $100,000.

In a brainstorming session, Tuesday’s participants identified several potential opportunities. They included eliminating Duluth’s east-west divide, developing a van in which skilled building crafts could be taught to residents around the city, connecting cultures, teaching people how to ride a bicycle or swim and finding ways to encourage diversity, among others.

Preliminary proposals are being accepted through Nov. 3 at

Proposals are reviewed by a panel of 45 judges.