Revenue chief in Ely, mayor lobbies for jobs; Novak: Fill empty cubicles

by Tom Coombe -

Ely city officials are turning a visit by the Minnesota Department of Revenue Commissioner into an opportunity to lobby for more state jobs.
Susan Bauerly, who heads the state agency, was scheduled to be in town Thursday with other Revenue officials and on the docket was a meeting with Ely Mayor Chuck Novak.
While the Department of Revenue hired seven new employees in Ely earlier this year, bringing the local workforce to 99 people, Novak has been persistent in pushing for the state to fill more than 20 empty cubicles at its pair of Ely facilities.
“There will be a push (for more jobs),” Novak sad Thursday. “My approach is let’s fill what we got.”
According to statistics provided by the state earlier this year, 70 of the 99 Revenue employees in town work out of the offices in Ely’s business park, while the remainder are able to work from home via a telecommuting program.
The telecommuting program is no longer available to new hires, leaving the empty cubicles in Ely in a state of limbo of sorts, should those telecommuting retire or opt to move back to the office.
Novak, however, said the city would work to accommodate any initative that would result in Ely new employment.
He said he would also lobby for the Department of Revenue, which recently added about 30 new jobs at its St. Paul office, to move other branches of its operation here.
“There are other branches that use the internet - how about we consider employees from those,” said Novak. “I don’t know whether it’s got legs or not, but we’ll chat. We’ll work it through and keep the pressure on.“
More than 100 people applied for the seven jobs that were filled in Ely in early-2017. Six positions were filled in 2016 from a pool of 90 applicants.
The Revenue operation in Ely started in the late-1980s with a handful of employees and gradually expanded, with state officials consistently praising the Ely workforce for its stability as well as success in garnering additional revenue for the state.