D&E cuts: headquarters, 239 jobs - LancasterOnline: Business

D&E cuts: headquarters, 239 jobs

Windstream details plan after purchase last week

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Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 7:04 am | Updated: 3:46 pm, Wed Sep 11, 2013.

The new owner of D&E Communications has decided to close D&E's downtown Ephrata headquarters by early March.

Windstream, which last week completed its $333 million purchase of D&E, disclosed its plan in a letter to the state Department of Labor & Industry.

Released by the state Monday, the document also finalizes the tally of local jobs to be cut by Windstream - 239, or 70 percent of the work force here.

The layoffs, which are slightly less than initially estimated, will start Jan. 9 and end April 9 or sooner, depending on where the affected employees work.

D&E owns five county sites, including its headquarters building. D&E occupies three stories of the six-story Brossman Business Center on East Main Street.

Windstream spokesman David Avery said the company "is exploring alternate uses for the building, including its sale."

Ephrata Mayor Ralph Mowen said the closing of the headquarters, and the presumed sale of the building, calls for a coordinated response.

Windstream, the borough, the Ephrata Area Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Ephrata Inc., a nonprofit economic development group, must pull together, the mayor said.

The closing "is going to have a definite impact on the downtown. A lot of people in that building frequent downtown businesses. We'll need to get a viable entity in there as quickly as possible.

"And that's no small task," Mowen said. "We're going to have to make sure we're all trying to sing out of the same hymnal."

Windstream's plan was detailed in a letter sent last week to comply with the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

The WARN Act generally requires firms to give 60 days' notice of a mass layoff.

Windstream, based in Little Rock, Ark., had announced five weeks ago that it would idle 250 to 270 workers here.

Given that size of job loss, it seemed unlikely that Windstream would keep the D&E headquarters open.

But at that time, Windstream said the fate of the five D&E county addresses had yet to be determined.

Now they have.

The headquarters at 124-128 E. Main St. will be closed by March 10, idling 80 workers. D&E occupies the building's third, fifth and six floors.

The 84,000-square-foot landmark, opened in 1993, is named after D&E founder William F. Brossman, who established D&E in 1911.

It also houses the two-screen Ephrata Main Theatres, MTS Travel and Lily's on Main. These three businesses will be staying.

Lily's co-founder Steve Brown said the 90-seat restaurant, in its 12th year, has the security of a long-term lease that, with renewals, can run into 2034.

So whether Windstream keeps or sells the building, "I'm not going anywhere. … My lease has to be honored for the balance, no matter who I write my check to."

Though D&E's current headquarters will close, Windstream will keep the building next door at 130 E. Main St., home of D&E's headquarters before the Brossman building opened.

Today the 30,000-square-foot building is a "central office," housing switching equipment for Ephrata area phone service. Nine workers there will be idled by Feb. 5.

Windstream also will retain D&E's operations center and office building at 4139 Oregon Pike near Schaum's Corner. This structure will lose 138 workers by April 9.

The 81,000-square-foot building opened in 2001. How much space gets vacated by the layoffs and what Windstream does with it remain to be determined, said Avery.

Windstream also is keeping an adjoining property, an 8,500-square-foot technician work center and depot at 2 Industrial Road. Ten workers there will be idled by Jan. 23.

At 140 Akron Road, where D&E has a 3,000-square-foot building for equipment storage, two workers will be idled by Jan. 23.

Windstream will use this structure and a 5,700-square-foot building on the same site to house Internet data centers coming here from Little Rock in a previously announced $4.2 million project.

tmekeel@lnpnews.com

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