Random House to close facility

Book-return operation in Finksburg will move to Ind., affecting 100 workers

May 18, 2002|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Random House Inc., Carroll County's largest private employer, will close a book-return operation in Finksburg, employing about 100 workers, by the end of next year.

However, a top state economic development official expressed hope yesterday that many, if not all of the jobs, will be absorbed by the company's book distribution center in Westminster.

"This was not the kind of announcement we like," said Vernon J. Thompson, assistant secretary of the state Department of Business and Economic Employment. "It's not good news, ... but it's our understanding that there's an opportunity for most of the jobs to be absorbed" by Random House's other operations in the county.

Phyllis Mandel, a senior vice president at Random House, said she could not guarantee future employment for the book-return workers.

"It may happen," she said, "but at this time we are fully staffed."

The center processes credits for books that are returned to the company from stores and wholesalers.

Workers also refurbish books to be put back into stock.

Mandel said the decision to phase out the book-return operation was part of the company's overall plan to reduce its operating costs.

The Finksburg operation will be relocated to Indiana, where Random House owns another distribution center.

Mandel said the book-return operation is housed in a rented building in Finksburg.

She said the lease was scheduled to expire in June of next year but was extended until Dec. 31, 2003, to give the company time to get the facility ready in Crawfordsville, Ind.

Dec. 31, 2003, is the date that the company is required to keep its full-time employment at no fewer than 900 under an agreement it made with the state to provide a $2.5 million grant to help pay for an expansion of its Westminster complex that was started in 1999.

Thompson said he doesn't believe there is any connection between the phaseout of the book-return center and the company's requirement to the state for the grant from Maryland's sunny day fund.

He said employment at Random House "fluctuates slightly, and it is now higher than we expected."

The company said it has about 1,200 workers, a figure that has remained fairly stable in recent years.

The Westminster distribution center packs and ships more than 4 million books a week, about twice the number available at Enoch Pratt Free Library and all its branches.

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