Good news amongst the bad

Published 7:20 pm Thursday, January 7, 2010

Positive economic news has been hard to come by for the past year or two. Even in Tidewater, which often is spared the worst of economic downturns because of its high concentration of military installations and the companies that support them, business news has been more often bleak than buoyant.

Businesses and industries have closed throughout Tidewater during the recession, many employees have been laid off, job seekers often spend months looking for work, foreclosures have increased to dangerous levels and the imminent closure of International Paper’s Franklin mill threatens the very existence of communities in Western Tidewater.

Near the beginning of this period of uncertainty and woe, an announcement was made in November 2008 that Golden State Foods would close its Suffolk distribution center by the end of 2009, forcing the 85 employees there to find other jobs or to relocate.

Coming relatively early in the recession, the news caused the obvious concerns, but there was no local panic over the loss of the facility or its jobs. As the recession dragged even more companies into closure and threw even more employees into the streets, however, the sense of anxiousness grew.

As it turns out, however, another purpose was found for the Wilroy Industrial Park building, its assets and its employees. A decision by Golden State Foods to put the facility under control of a subsidiary distribution company, Quality Custom Distribution Services, enabled the company to retain about 90 percent of its employees, according to a report this week.

“This facility was definitely at the right place at the right time, and we are excited to remain part of the Suffolk business community, as well as continuing to partner with our local charitable colleagues to help children and families in need,” facility manager Darlene Wilson said.

As a supplier to the food service industry and with McDonald’s restaurants as a major customer, the company’s security in the midst of the recession was never a given, but it surely benefitted from being a supplier to a company that is largely recession-resistant. Still, companies around the nation have been looking for ways to cut costs, and there was a time when it looked as if Suffolk’s GSF employees were going to be victims of that trend.

It’s heartening to know that corporate leaders were able to find a way to save the company. Both the city and the company’s employees have a reason to feel optimistic on the heels of the good news.