CORRECTION: City of Rhinelander, workforce development to devise plan for displace DFS workers
By Eileen Persike
[A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the meeting was for DFS employees. This story is based on a revised press release from the Rhinelander city administrator. We apologize for the error.]
Together with representatives from the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board (NCWWDB), the city of Rhinelander is hosting a coordination meeting Tuesday, Jan. 15 with local agencies to develop a response plan for workers affected by the closure of the Rhinelander Petco/Drs. Foster and Smith facility. The meeting will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. in council chambers.
“City officials are saddened by this news,” Daniel Guild, the city administrator stated in a press release. “City officials pledge themselves and the resources of the city toward cooperative efforts with federal and state representatives and between the local economic and workforce development agencies to distribute resources for those who have been displaced.”
In a letter to Rhinelander Mayor Chris Frederickson, Petco officials stated they “appreciate that [the closure] has a very real effect on both individuals and the broader community in Rhinelander.”
Petco announced to employees Wednesday that it ” has made the “difficult by necessary decision” to close operations at Rhinelander’s Drs. Foster and Smith pet supply operations in coming months. The closure will affect 289 employees whose last days of work is expected to be mid-March.
Rhinelander Mayor Chris Frederickson received a letter from Petco official Brock Weatherup Wednesday, after which Guild indicated he contacted state and federal elected officials as well as the NCWWBD. Workforce Development is the state-designated responder to major worker dislocations and Guild stated the city is working with the board to convene a “community response team.”
Guild continued, saying, “It is imperative NCWWBD staff reach affected workers as quickly as possible so those impacted understand the eligibility and the array of resources available to them. NCWWBD will also be working in cooperation with the outplacement agency hired by the company.”
In the letter to Frederickson, officials state that “since Petco acquired DFS in 2015, consumer needs and preferences have continued to shift with technology and the pet retail industry as a whole has continued to evolve at a rapid pace to keep up with these dynamics. Taking into account the needs of modern pet parents, ever-changing consumer demands and the ongoing evolution of the Petco brand, we believe the closure of DFS will enable us to streamline operations and better focus on our core business and customer.”