U.S. Foodservice to shut Savage site

Up to 110 layoffs likely at the former Alliant distribution center

March 02, 2002|By Robert Little | Robert Little,SUN STAFF

U.S. Foodservice plans to close a distribution center in southern Howard County and eliminate as many as 110 jobs, part of a continuing effort to absorb former rival Alliant Foodservice Inc., which it acquired last year.

The former Alliant distribution center in Savage will be closed and its operations will be transferred to U.S. Foodservice distribution centers in Severn and in Manassas, Va., company officials said.

Some of the displaced warehouse workers and drivers might be needed at other U.S. Foodservice facilities, but the company has notified state officials that it anticipates as many as 110 layoffs - its entire Savage work force.

"We knew when we acquired Alliant that there were about 20 metropolitan areas around the country where operations would need to be consolidated, and this is part of that process," said Robert Gillison, U.S. Food- service's vice president and treasurer.

U.S. Foodservice distributes food to hospitals, restaurants, schools and other institutions around the country, and operates warehouses in all of its local markets. The Savage facility is smaller than others nearby and its lease will soon expire, Gillison said. Exact timing of the closure is subject to negotiations with the facility's unionized workers but is expected to be completed within a few months, he said.

U.S. Foodservice, based in Columbia, completed its $2.2 billion takeover of Alliant late last year. The two companies operated mostly in different geographic areas serving different types of customers, and the deal was hailed by analysts as a logical union.

Company officials say the combined U.S. Foodservice distribution network reaches 95 percent of the population of the continental United States.

But some operations overlapped. Besides closing the facility in Savage, similar consolidations are under way in Atlanta; Tampa, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; the Carolinas; and other areas, Gillison said.

Consolidating the rest of U.S. Foodservice's national distribution network is expected to stretch into next year and will ultimately pare the number of warehouse facilities from 110 to roughly 90. The company employs more than 30,000 nationwide, Gillison said, and its work force is expected to grow in the coming years.

Founded in 1989, U.S. Foodservice is owned by the Dutch conglomerate Royal Ahold NV. With about $19 billion in anticipated annual sales, it is the second-largest food distribution company in the United States, behind Houston-based Sysco Corp.

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