Johnstown Mayor Michael Julius got quite a scare Tuesday when he opened a letter from National Freight Inc.
The letter was short.
“It said we were losing 112 jobs,” Julius said. “Massive layoffs, but it wasn’t that specific.”
National Freight, a major international shipping, warehousing and logistics company, is packing up its Johnstown Industrial Park operation as of March 31. Many of the 112 locals employed by the company will be laid off.
Julius was understandably concerned. “I don’t like seeing even two or three jobs leave,” he said, “much less more than 100.”
But according to Fulton County Center for Regional Growth CEO Michael Reese, National Freight’s departure will likely have little effect on the local economy.
“I don’t see this making a big net change in local jobs,” he said.
The 112 job loss warning, also filed with the state Department of Labor, was actually a bit deceptive. National Freight doesn’t run a standalone distribution facility in Johnstown. The company just runs a dedicated fleet of trucks for Wal-Mart’s massive Opportunity Drive distribution facility.
In fact, when Reese first got his hands on the job loss warning, he was confused.
“I wasn’t aware National Freight had a facility in our industrial park,” he said.
According to Scott Brucker, general counsel for National Freight working in the company’s New Jersey headquarters, large companies like Wal-Mart routinely rebid their hauling contracts. “Large companies use many distribution companies across the country,” he said.
For years, National Freight held the Johnstown contract, but Wal-Mart recently found a new trucking company, Brucker said.
While Brucker wasn’t happy about his company losing some business, he said the switch won’t likely hurt Johnstown. A number of the 112 employees running Wal-Mart’s Johnstown trucking operation are set to be relocated to other National Freight centers in the state. The rest, Brucker said, will likely be hired by the new company.
“It’s going to be a quick transition,” Brucker said. “We’ll leave at the end of the day March 31 and the new company will start work April 1.”
Reese said as long as the Wal-Mart distribution center itself stays open, changes in contracts won’t hurt the local economy.
“We might lose a few jobs,” he said, “but not too many.”
Wal-Mart officials did not return calls for comment Wednesday on which trucking company they hired, or any wage or workforce changes that may be in the works.