Transportation company Norfolk Southern Corp. announced on Tuesday, Jan. 27, that it would close its office in Roanoke, affecting 500 of the area’s 1,700 Norfolk Southern employees.
Workers in the Roanoke office, who perform white-collar jobs in the areas of marketing, accounting and information technology, will have the opportunity to relocate to Norfolk or Atlanta. According to James A. Squires, Norfolk Southern president, the Roanoke workforce would be offered “substantial” relocation packages.
But employees and area locals expressed their anger and worry at the announcement. Norfolk Southern has been a staple of the region’s commerce for more than 100 years. Employment in and around Roanoke has fallen in recent years, though, and at one time the company employed more than 5,000 workers in Roanoke alone.
Local real estate and retail will also be impacted. The company’s 23-year-old office building, located at 110 Franklin Road, will most likely be put up for sale sometime in August.
Although the offices in Atlanta and Norfolk will see an influx of employees, management explained that there is no reason to prepare a detailed office relocation guide. The company has plenty of room in both locations.
“When companies consolidate locations, there are multiple aspects that set off a chain of events,” says John Kiel, Vice President, Precision Office Furniture Installation. “When you remove a large quantity of employees from an existing facility, there will be a potential decommission or repurpose of their existing office furniture. This will result in management reviewing the possible options of relocating current furniture, acquiring new furniture, and/or reconfiguring departments to integrate all personnel in order to create an environment conducive to a higher level of productivity.”
Squires explained to employees that the decision to move workers to Norfolk and Atlanta is a “consolidation,” not a reflection of any business issues with the office, and it does not involve any lay-offs.
“We’re very proud of our Roanoke employees and we’re very appreciative of the services that they provide our company,” Squires said. “That’s why we are working so hard to convince as many as possible to relocate to Norfolk or Atlanta.”
Employees have the option to relocate at their current pay level, in addition to receiving the relocation package, or find work elsewhere. The company has yet to determine which departments and positions will move to Atlanta or Norfolk.
Another 1,200 workers for Norfolk Southern will remain in the Roanoke Valley region in other facilities.