W. Md. utility to move offices

In debt, Allegheny Energy to put headquarters in Pa.

Consolidation seen saving money

300 workers who deliver power will remain in state

April 22, 2004|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,sun staff

Debt-ridden Allegheny Energy Inc. said yesterday it will move its headquarters from its sprawling 365-acre campus in Hagerstown to Greensburg, Pa., near Pittsburgh, to consolidate corporate offices and save money as it continues efforts to regain its financial footing.

The energy company said about 50 employees still located in its headquarters will be affected by the move, but more than 300 employees such as linemen and other service workers associated with its power delivery business will remain in Western Maryland.

After two years of struggling to cut $5.75 billion in debt, Allegheny has made a number of moves to turn its fortunes around by selling assets, refinancing its debt and replacing about two-thirds of its accounting staff because of problems that were discovered in an audit of its bookkeeping.

Yesterday, company executives told employees about the move during a late-morning meeting and said the transition would be completed by Sept. 1. Of the employees affected, 20 will be relocated to its Williamsport Service Center outside of Hagerstown, another 15 positions will be moved to Pennsylvania or West Virginia and about a dozen positions will be eliminated.

"The people in jobs that are eliminated will be given an opportunity to bid for other jobs within the company," said Janice D. Lantz, an Allegheny spokeswoman. "We've got about 2,000 employees in the Greensburg area. That's really where the core of our offices are located. Our executives were splitting their time between both places.

"This move will not affect our lines personnel in Western Maryland, and our service to customers in Maryland will not be affected," Lantz said. "After some of the difficulties we've had, they wanted to consolidate our people, especially the accounting offices, so that there would be more efficiency and oversight. This will help bolster our corporate governance and boost efficiency."

Allegheny has about 230,000 customers in Maryland. The company serves a total of 1.7 million in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.

Allegheny is the second Washington County-based company in five months to announce a departure. In November, GST AutoLeather Inc., which produces leather that other companies use to make seat covers, said it was closing its cutting plant in Williamsport, which is southwest of Hagerstown. GST said it would lay off more than half of its 215 workers there and move the operation to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, this year.

GST still operates a separate manufacturing plant in Williamsport.

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