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Three economic needs in Ely: Workforce, housing and childcare

Politicians like to say they will work to bring jobs to the Ely area. But what if jobs aren’t what we need right now?
There has been discussion at the Ely Chamber of Commerce about three problems currently facing businesses: workforce, housing and childcare shortages.
“All three are tied tightly together, each issue being as important as the others. Working together with both local, regional, and state organizations and agencies can aid with finding solutions. The solutions to these critical issues will come from multiple directions using some very creative ideas,” a recent Chamber newsletter stated.
This really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. We know there are enough workers to fill jobs in Ely, especially in the service industry. Businesses close early or don’t even open some days because they don’t have enough employees. That’s a workforce problem.
When Ely’s real estate market took off, not only in lakeshore properties, but city and country homes, it helped cause a housing problem. This was multiplied by the explosion of properties being rented out for short-term housing, specifically through programs like VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner).
Cities and counties had to quickly put ordinances in place so neighborhoods weren’t overrun by instant one house hotels. Monthly rentals became weekly and people looking for housing were left out in the cold.
The third problem is child care and here the federal government in stepping in with Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Tina Smith looking to earmark $1.2 million to help build two new childcare facilities – one in Chisholm and one in Ely.
Workers with kids without childcare are either limited in when they can work, or unable to work at all.
These three issues of workforce, housing and childcare will need creative solutions in order for Ely to move forward. One resort has been closed and is being converted into housing for workers of area businesses. The owner contracts with an employer to provide housing for employees. It’s different, but it might work.
We’re going to need to look at solutions that are outside the norm. Make it so.

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