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United Healthcare to add jobs in Duluth

Waterloo's loss soon will be Duluth's gain. United Healthcare is closing its 50-employee Waterloo, Iowa, call center this spring and transferring those operations to larger call centers in Duluth; Louisville, Ky.; and San Antonio, said Will Holma...

UnitedHealthcare
UnitedHealthcare celebrated 20 years in the Twin Ports with featured speakers and an employee recognition ceremony Thursday afternoon. Speaking is Chris Byrnes, vice president of operations. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com

Waterloo's loss soon will be Duluth's gain.

United Healthcare is closing its 50-employee Waterloo, Iowa, call center this spring and transferring those operations to larger call centers in Duluth; Louisville, Ky.; and San Antonio, said Will Holman, a company spokesman in Edina. For Duluth, that will mean 10 to 15 more full-time customer-service jobs. Holman didn't know what the jobs would pay.

The selection of Duluth out of United Healthcare's 14 call centers in the United States bodes well for the community, said Drew Digby, regional labor market analyst for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

"It's a really good sign that a national employer values the work being done by Duluth workers," Digby said. "United Healthcare looks at operations in a lot of different places and looks at where they're most efficient and most productive. And Duluth ends up high on their lists."

Holman agreed.

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"The Duluth office was selected for its excellent record of performance that translates into excellence service to customers," he said. "And Duluth is a great match because the Duluth call center is already doing this kind of work."

At the Duluth call center, staff members answer questions about customer health plans, benefits, claims, bills and physician networks.

Even 15 new jobs makes an impact on the local economy, Digby said.

"Every little piece like this adds up a lot," he said. "When we get a big chunk of jobs, that's a good kind of shock to our economy."

Since moving into the Rice Lake Road facility in 2000, United Healthcare has doubled its staff. Under a development agreement with the Duluth Economic Development Authority at the time, United Healthcare was supposed to create 370 positions on top of the 660 people it already employed in Duluth.

Today it has 1,300 employees who work at the call center, in sales and in other positions, Holman said.

The new jobs coming to Duluth will be in addition to current staff. And it will be in addition to job openings already posted online and in newspaper ads, Holman said.

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