Spotlight Series

The BBER is happy to share with you a series of interviews featuring some of our past project partners and stakeholders.  

These amazing people have some pretty interesting jobs, so we’re bringing you a fun peek into their work-world along with some of their personal facets. This series will be ongoing, so if you have anyone you’d like to nominate as a potential Spotlight feature, put it in the comments or send us an email at [email protected]. Enjoy!

Spotlight on Dan Hartman

Dan has been executive director of the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC) for two-and-a-half years.  In 2023, the BBER worked with Dan to develop a tool that allows the DECC to estimate the economic impacts of the 500+ events it hosts each year. With the tool, DECC staff are able to compare the economic impacts of its events and assist with strategic planning and decision making

What does a typical day look like in your job?

On most weekdays, I get to work at 7:40 a.m. and then have an hour or less for email followed by meetings until 4:30 p.m. Meetings can be with leadership staff, community leaders, or local partners on varied events. Honestly, it’s a real privilege to be part of conversations for some really cool things for Duluth. On weekends or event days, around 5 p.m. I will switch into a role where I observe all parts of an event to see how we can improve it for the next time. I study everything from parking issues to ticketing to food and beverages. 

What do you like best about your current job?

I enjoy the constant variety and how big of a difference the DECC makes for Duluth. It always feels good to walk around Canal Park and see all the DECC attendees spending their money in our town, supporting our town. It’s hard to argue that the DECC doesn’t support Duluth. I think there are few other roles that help Duluth more than my role. It’s pretty awesome. 

What about your current job do you find most challenging?

The DECC has significant facility challenges; many of which go back decades. As an example, in my short time here, two out of three ice plants have broken down. With each of those dilemmas comes difficult community conversations.

If you could snap your fingers and solve any problem facing our community, what would it be?

Wow. That is a big question. I would better concentrate our unique homespun businesses (i.e., restaurants, shops, breweries, art galleries) into the downtown/Canal Park area so that more people know they exist and to help our community to be viewed better by guests who enter our city. For example, we have more artists per capita than any city in Minnesota. You just can’t tell because they are spread throughout our city. Most other communities concentrate them in one area. Also, most of our visitors (three to four million a year) never leave the downtown/Canal Park area, so they miss these businesses almost entirely. The visitors have much more disposable income than our local residents. It’s sad to see such an opportunity being missed. 

What is the most recent thing you’ve read (besides email)?

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker and Wildsam guidebooks 

What is something (knowledge or a skill) you would like to learn?

I would like to learn more about the emerging AI programs coming onto the market. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that has helped you in your career?

Two pieces of advice consistently get brought to me throughout my career, and usually they are always useful to hear. 

“The obstacle is the way.”  It’s an old Roman philosophy that by addressing the problem head on or confronting it, you will learn the path forward. It’s always a little scary of a path, but it is fruitful almost every time. 

“Enjoy the moment.” It is very easy to move on to the next problem and not enjoy the moment you have in front of you. With my kids especially, I am really trying hard to enjoy these fleeting moments I have with them before they are grown up. 

Photo: Dan (top right) and family (clockwise) Amelia; Liam; Olivia; wife, Elizabeth; and Logan 


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