Copps Warehouse Leaves Unintended Victim in Wake of Closure
Tammy Jankowski (left) of Duraclean Specialists, 2801 Post Road, presents Roseann Debot a check for $2,225.43 for Operation Bootstrap. (Contributed photo)
By Patrick Lynn
Officials from Operation Bootstrap say the closing of Copps Distribution Company in Stevens Point has created unintended consequences in the Stevens Point Area.
Roundy’s, Inc. announced in July it would close the Wayne Street warehouse by the end of September, leaving well over 100 local residents out of work.
The warehouse, located at 2828 Wayne St., distributes food to a number of Roundy’s chain stores in the upper Midwest, including a number of Rainbow grocery store locations in Minnesota. Roundy’s sold the Rainbow locations to SuperValue, Inc., making operations at the Stevens Point warehouse obsolete.
But beyond the immediate implications of unemployment, Operation Bootstrap says it now has to make up shortfalls of some $200,000 in food donations that came in from the warehouse each year.
“Some of those items we would never have bought, but it was all used,” said Roseann Debot from Operation Bootstrap. “We’re really going to miss that; trying to make up for it is going to be difficult.”
Debot said the warehouse would regularly donate leftovers from sales, items which only had 3-4 months left before expiration, fresh fruits and vegetables or irregularly- labeled items. She said the organization will now try to streamline how it gives out food to those in need, such a giving half a gallon of milk to a single person family instead of a full gallon.
“We’re also looking at requesting more than we have before from some of the foundations that have donated to us,” she said.
With a possible increase in minimum wage now a topic of hot discussion, Debot said any movement on that issue won’t have any short-term effects on how many families it currently serves.
“It’s a bit odd to see now we’ve have four families who used to work for Copp’s (warehouse) who have stepped forward to our help,” she said. “Some of the people who once helped us rely on that food are now needing help for themselves. I expect that number to grow once their severance pay and all that run out.”
Bruce Trimble, employer services director for the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, said large- scale closures like this one are always hard on a community, and even more so because of the nature of jobs aren’t necessarily in high demand.
“The high-demand jobs out there right now are metal fabrication, IT and some areas of healthcare,” Trimble said. “The last 7,200 displaced workers we’ve seen over the past years we’ve been able to provide some job training and classroom services, basic computer skills and some job-search assistance, but whether people take the training is entirely their choice.”
The warehousing closing is just the latest in a slew of large-scale firings over recent years. Ministry Medical announced last May it was laying off 225 employees. The NewPage mill in Whiting closed its doors in 2010, leaving more than 350 without work, and in April of 2012 about 150 lost their jobs when the local Joerns Healthcare factory closed down.
But several companies are also hiring locally, with Berkshire Hathaway, formerly Noel, announcing over the summer it was hiring more than 100 people due to the company’s growth. SentryWorld also announced it was hiring 75, and Copper Leaf Care Management Group is also priming to hire 30 additional workers for their senior care living facilities in the area.
Trimble said regardless of movement on the minimum wage, wages in general are likely to go up due to a shortage of qualified workers.
Debot said Operation Bootstrap can offer referrals for immediate needs but generally outsources work training and other job assistance to other agencies. What the organization needs most, she said, is money- and just before the organization’s donation push for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“We need checks, send those checks in so we can buy what we need,” Debot said, adding some of the dry goods needed can be purchased at a discount for bulk orders, but fresh milk and frozen chicken and other meats have fixed prices.
“And baby formula- a can of soy baby formula costs $25,” she said. “There’s plenty of things you can’t change the price on, and for some people a change of $30- $40 is quite a bit.”
To donate goods or money to Operation Bootstrap, stop in to their office at 5000 Heffron Street or call 715-344-1544.