Norfolk Southern is closing its office building in downtown Roanoke, affecting 500 employees.
Norfolk Southern Spokesman Robin Chapman says employees were informed Tuesday morning. .
“It was a surprise to most if not all when it was announced this morning. And, of course, there are a lot of people here with roots in the area. This is obviously not welcome news for many of them. But I think a number of them also recognize as President Jim Squires pointed out in this morning’s meeting that this also creates opportunities for advancement for employees who relocate, because by consolidating from three headquarter locations to two, it’s easier for employees to advance through the company if the departments are consolidated and working closer together with each other.”
He says closing the building is a cost cutting move.
“It’s to foster departmental synergies and to make better use of our real estate assets and to support the company’s goal of streamlining our management workforce.”
The affected employees work in I. T., marketing, and accounting and Chapman says the employees will be offered transfers to Norfolk or Atlanta, with a small number or regionally-oriented positions remaining in the Roanoke area. Company officials hope to have most employees resettled by the end of summer.
“The objective there is to make it easiest on families with children so that their kids can start school in the new place.”
The move leaves about 1,200 Norfolk Southern employees remaining here.
Meanwhile, Roanoke officials say they’ll help find jobs for those employees who wish to remain in area. Mayor David Bowers says the closing of Norfolk Southern’s downtown office building will have a significant economic, but it’s too soon to tell in dollars and cents what the effect will be.
“That’s going to have an impact on restaurants in downtown Roanoke. These are good-paying jobs. Those folks like to come down and get a bit to eat. It’s going to affect some of the stores, it’s going to affect the dry cleaners.”
The Star City has the 2nd most diverse economy in the Commonwealth and city Economic Development Director Wayne Bowers says the local economy is therefore better prepared to respond to a significant job loss.
“We’re not dependent anymore on one major employer and we’ll continue our efforts to try to diversify our economy so that these type (of) things, which will happen in corporate America, will not be so devastating as they may have been in the past.”
Wayne Bowers says the city will work with the Western Virginia Workforce Development Board and the Virginia Employment Commission to assist Norfolk Southern employees. Officials will also work with the company to find a new use for the current office building.