Officials seek to ease pain from closing of Gap distribution hub

Center set to shut down in summer

leaders pledge to help workers find jobs

February 13, 2005|By Christina Hernandez | Christina Hernandez,SUN STAFF

After last week's announcement that the Gap Inc. distribution center in Harford County is closing, area officials are considering what's next for the Edgewood facility and helping to find employment for the 170 workers slated to be laid off.

Gap plans to shift the work from its Edgewood operation to distribution centers in Gallatin, Tenn., and Fishkill, N.Y., company officials said. Layoffs could begin in April, but work at the Edgewood center is not scheduled to shut down completely until this summer.

The closing was "not good news," said Del. Mary-Dulany James, a Harford Democrat.

"You never want to see something like that occur," she said.

James said it's too soon to tell how the closing could affect the county's economy.

"I don't know if you can replace that distribution center with another one," she said. "In order for us to replace that with a like company, they would have to be moving or expanding. The trend across the country is that companies consolidate, downsize. When they take in high-tech aspects of what they do, you need less employees."

County Councilman Dion F. Guthrie, a Democrat who represents the area, said, "That's a very nice building, and there are some possibilities. Already people are looking at it, so I think it's going to fill very quickly."

Guthrie said he's known of the closing for about one month.

"I'm greatly disappointed that it's closing, and I've been working very hard to find other employers in the area where we can find individuals jobs," he said.

Guthrie said he's also working with the Susquehanna Region of the Workforce Investment Board, a state-run organization that finds jobs and provides training for people in Harford and Cecil counties.

The Von Paris moving company, which is building a site between Joppatowne and Edgewood, could need employees, along with a plant in Aberdeen that does ceiling work, Guthrie said. The C-Mart store in Forest Hill is moving to the old Kmart building in the Joppatowne Shopping Center and needs workers too, he said.

James said Harford government officials are trying to secure jobs for the people being laid off, but that process has limitations.

Although James said she didn't want to discount the offer Gap made to give some workers employment at other facilities, she said it may not be a solution for all.

"There are people that have ties to the community that could not be easily left behind," she said. "For many people, they want to stay in Harford County. That's their home."

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