The purpose of Destination Duluth is to educate and inspire people about the quality of place of Duluth, Minnesota, thereby shaping the city and region’s positive growth.
The history of Destination Duluth started in 2006 when co-founder Branden Robinson purchased the Destination Duluth.org domain. The non-profit, funded by individuals, sponsoring businesses, and private grants, was officially launched on May 23, 2013, with a Facebook page and then a website several months later.
Destination Duluth uses gorgeous images and stories of people, places, and events celebrating the Northland while generating millions of social media interactions.
The engagement rate has been so remarkable that Destination Duluth was ranked third in the nation in social media engagement in the tourism category for three consecutive months, August through October 2021, according to Shareablee.com.
These rankings beat out tourism social media giants such as “Discover Los Angeles,” “Choose Chicago,” and “The Official Guide to New York City.”
Shareablee monitors more than 1 million companies and notes that the interactions of Destination Duluth’s 225,000 followers placed it in the Top 10 among Sharablee’s monthly “PowerRankings.”
The New Destination Duluth Board
Destination Duluth’s Managing Director Jerry Thoreson and co-founder Branden Robinson are pleased to announce that three community leaders are joining them to form Destination Duluth’s new board: Dennis O’Hara, Beau Walsh, and Jane Pederson Jandl.
Jerry grew up in Superior in the Billings Park neighborhood. He graduated from Maranatha Baptist University with a degree in pastoral studies. After college, he served in church ministry as an associate pastor in Martinsville, Indiana, for over 13 years.
Returning to the Twin Ports in 1996, he worked in the advertising department at the Duluth News Tribune until January 2012. He then freelanced as a social media marketer, helping many businesses with their Facebook pages.
In 2013, he was recruited to help launch the Destination Duluth Facebook page and promoted to Managing Director in the fall of 2019.
“It has been a remarkable honor working on Destination Duluth to uplift the city and to educate people about the beauty and quality of life here and why they would want to #befromDuluth
Jerry and his wife Sandi enjoy living in Duluth’s growing Lincoln Park neighborhood. They have four grown children and eight grandchildren.
The couple loves getting out and enjoying what life in Duluth has to offer on both the North and South shores of the Lake. Their favorite spots are the Rose Garden, Brighton Beach, Park Point, Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse, and Bayfield.
Regarding the new board members, Jerry stated, “I am so excited about the fresh leadership and the gifts and talents they bring that will expand our ability to influence positive growth for Duluth and surrounding areas.”
He added, “We deeply appreciate both our photographers and writers for helping us tell the story of Duluth.”
Branden grew up in Duluth, graduated from Marshall High School, and went away to college at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he received a degree in Hospitality Management. He has been the general manager at Duluth’s South Pier Inn for over fifteen years.
“I was very happy to come back to Duluth. I always saw this one-of-a-kind city's potential—with its four seasons, natural assets, recreation, and the beauty of the Lake, the hill, and the woods. It offers something for everyone.”
He added, “On the cultural side, we also have an amazing arts scene.” He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Duluth Superior Symphony.”
He has also served on many non-profit boards, including Hospitality Minnesota and their Education Foundation, Minnesota Lodging Association. Locally he served on the board of Visit Duluth, Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, Duluth Superior Hotel Motel Association, and Rotary Club of Duluth, serving as Club President in 2015-2016.
For activities, Robinson enjoys being on the water—sailing, kayaking, and boating, and on land, going hiking and biking. He also loves the variety of restaurants and small businesses the area offers.
“I am excited about the new board members bringing their creative talents to Destination Duluth,” he said. “I see many avenues for growth and new directions with us working together to direct where we can go in the future.”
“It’s important for us to keep our small town feeling while growing and inviting people to come here to live, to be involved, and to make a difference,” he said.
Dennis was born on Park Point, grew up in West Duluth, and worked for Minnesota Power as a systems operator for 29 years. Dennis and his wife Debby have three adult children and six grandchildren.
O’Hara was also a Minnesota Air Guard navigator and camera operator in F4 reconnaissance planes. “That is where I began my interest in photography,” he said.
He served in the Guard for 22 years until 1992, leaving the service with the rank of major.
After retiring, he began doing scenic photography and started his own photography company, Northern Images. He launched his first website in 1992, just three years after the start of the internet, known as the ‘world-wide-web.’
Inspiring his love of Duluth, Dennis states, “We have an endless supply of subjects with the Lake and the 20-mile long city with the parks, waterfalls, wildlife, and coastline. I never get tired of it.”
O’Hara also started Duluth Harbor Cam in 2006, with fourteen live cameras from Two Harbors to Duluth. He is proud to have been the first photographer featured on Destination Duluth’s Facebook Page. His photos and Duluth Harbor Cam videos have been featured hundreds of times and seen by millions of viewers.
“As a new Board member for Destination Duluth, I want to help others recognize the beauty of the city,” O’Hara said. “The goal is to invite people to live here.”
Beau grew up in Minneapolis and came to Duluth at 17 to go to UMD to study graphic design. During his senior year in college, he heard that most of his friends planned to leave Duluth after graduating. “I remember thinking, ‘Why is nobody staying here?’”
“I saw Duluth as a place I could start working right away and put down roots. I have spoken so highly of it; my parents and my sister also moved here,” Walsh said.
He did his internship at an ad agency and began doing freelance work. Walsh started his own design agency in 2014, eventually opening his current agency, Cultural North, six years ago.
Walsh enjoys spending time with his wife France, and their two-year-old daughter, Vesper. “My favorite place right now is probably 190° Coffee Shop, and my favorite activity is probably sitting at a coffee shop and working on new ideas and side projects.”
He said, “Outdoors, I enjoy going on a walk through the Congdon neighborhood and then hiking by Tischer Creek. I love so much about the city, from its history, buildings, geography, and cultural opportunities. I also love working with people I admire and making an impact.”
“My goals on the Board are to problem solve, find small things we can do to make a great impact, and refine the visions and goals of Destination Duluth,” he added.
Jane Pederson Jandl
Jane is the Digital Marketing Director at the DECC. She was born in Duluth but grew up in the Twin Cities. “When it was time for me to choose a college,” Jane states, the “University of Minnesota Duluth was my top pick. “I remember coming up for family vacations here when I was growing up and having so many happy memories,” she said. “My time as a student also sold me on the community as a place big enough for opportunities and small enough for an easier lifestyle.”
However, after graduating from UMD with a bachelor’s degree in communications, she took a job in Minneapolis. “Despite the promise of financial security and excitement of the downtown hustle and bustle, something was missing,” adding “Lake Superior and the relaxed attitude of Duluthians was what I missed the most.”
She moved back to Duluth in 2013 when she got a job at Glensheen and was promoted to Marketing Manager in 2016. During the next six years, she helped transform Glensheen into a beloved community space by utilizing her omnichannel marketing skills.
In 2018, Jane was a Duluth News Tribune “20 Under 40 winner” and is a graduate of the Duluth Chamber of Commerce Leadership Duluth program. She currently is President of Duluth Attractions Council and a board member of Hartley Nature Center.
“We gravitate towards Lake Superior. My husband, my one-year-old son, and I enjoy all the natural beauty here with the Lake and parks,” Jane said. “We live just a block away from Lester Park and enjoy taking our dog to Park Point.”
She added, “I have long admired the work of Destination Duluth. They are great at bringing awareness of Duluth through social media and showing our amazing scenery with their social presence. They are demonstrating on a national level what a great place to live this is.”
“As a new Board member, I want to support the team in what seems like a new era for Destination Duluth. I am honored to be a part of its bright future,” she said.