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- 2012 - September - 17th -

Sears to close Beach Boulevard Kmart in December, 71 jobs affected

by Karen Brune Mathis, Managing Editor

Sears to close Beach Boulevard Kmart in December, 71 jobs affected

Sears Holding Corp. spokesperson Kimberly Freely said this morning that Sears will close the Kmart store at 5751 Beach Blvd. by the end of December.

A Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification was filed with the state Thursday that 71 workers would be affected from Dec. 9-23 at the Kmart No. 4283 at that location.

Kmart is part of Sears, which has been closing Sears and Kmarts nationwide.

Freely said the affected workers will be notified of positions available at area Sears and Kmart stores but will need to apply for those jobs.

She said the Kmart store’s going-out-of-business sale should wrap up by mid-December and store will be vacated by the end of December.

On Dec. 27, Sears Holdings announced it would close 120 underperforming Sears and Kmart stores but has not identified all of them, according to searsholdings.com.

Among its initial closings were two area Kmart stores in Fernandina Beach and St. Augustine.

A location search today for Kmarts in Jacksonville at searsholdings.com shows seven stores – five in Jacksonville and one each in Palatka and in Kingsland, Ga. – but does not list the Beach Boulevard store.

A search for Sears shows three mall stores at Regency Square, Orange Park and The Avenues as well as two outlet stores along St. Johns Bluff Road and in the Riverplace Shopping Center in Mandarin.

It also shows two Hometown Stores in Fernandina Beach and in St. Marys, Ga.

Hydradyne construction approved

The City approved construction Friday for the 35,850-square-foot Hydradyne operation at 3919 Philips Highway. Infinity Design Builders is the contractor for the $2.15 million project.

Hydradyne LLC, which has relocated its headquarters from Harvey, La., to Dallas/Fort Worth, will move its Jacksonville operations from its current 8,500-square-foot Jacksonville location to the Philips Highway site.

Communications Manager Sherri Smith issued a statement the past week saying that the larger facility will better serve its customers with increased warehousing and distribution capabilities and an expanded repair service, fabrication and machine shop.

Hydradyne produces and services products for the manufacturing, construction, power generation, marine, military and original equipment manufacturing industries in the Jacksonville area and throughout Florida.

Southeast Regional Manager Mark Richardson said in a statement that Hydradyne expects to increase its workforce “in the near future due to our expanded services and projected increase in production.”

“Our strategic investment in the Jacksonville area will allow us to extend our services to all major industries in Southeast Georgia, North Florida and the growing ports of Jacksonville, Brunswick and Savannah,” he said.

The Daily Record reported last week that Hydradyne paid $1.29 million for 6.75 acres at 3919 Philips Highway in a sale that was completed July 21, 2011, and recorded Aug. 5, 2011.

The site is a block south of Emerson Street and the land was acquired from auto dealer Buddy Hutchinson.

Discount stores growing

Smaller-size discount stores continue to expand in Jacksonville, specifically Dollar General, Family Dollar and Wal-Mart, through its Walmart Neighborhood Markets.

The Wall Street Journal reported that those three chains, along with Dollar Tree, predict sales growth in the current fiscal year. The four chains anticipate same-store sales growth, referring to stores that have been open for a year.

Dollar Tree also has stores in Northeast Florida, but has not been filing expansion plans.

Dollar General leads with a projected same-store sales growth of 5.1 percent, followed by Family Dollar at 4.8 percent, Dollar Tree at 4.6 percent and Wal-Mart at 2.2 percent. The projections are for fiscal 2013.

Meanwhile, the Journal projects Fred’s Super Dollar stores will see same-store sales drop by 0.9 percent and Big Lots will see sales fall by 2.1 percent. Those chains also operate in the Jacksonville area.

Weedon reappointed to board

Gov. Rick Scott announced the reappointment of lawyer Gerald “Jerry” Weedon to the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind board of trustees in St. Augustine.

Weedon has been president of the Jacksonville-based Marks Gray law firm since 1976. He was reappointed for a term that began Thursday and ends Nov. 14, 2014. The reappointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Hacienda Club Apartments under way

FaverGray will start construction by next week on the recently permitted Hacienda Club Apartments at 8685 Baymeadows Road E.

In a news release, project manager Bill Reneau said he anticipates that construction on the 10-building, 300-apartment unit complex will start by Sept. 24.

Hacienda Club Apartments will consist of 112 one-bedroom units, 110 two-bedroom units and 78 three-bedroom units, as well as a pool, clubhouse, several gazebos and a car-care center.

The estimated $24.1 million project will employ more than 100 people at its busiest construction period, the release said.

Fort Family Investments LLC is the owner of the development. Group 4 Design from Jacksonville is the project architect.

Founded in 2005 by industry veterans Jim Gray and Keith Faver, FaverGray is a Jacksonville Beach-based commercial general contracting company that focuses on the student housing, multifamily, hospitality and senior living commercial real estate market.

Housing permits increase

The City Building Inspection Division reports that the number of single-family construction permits rose to 1,166 during the 12 months that ended in August from 1,058 the year before.

The reporting period was September-August.

While the 2011-12 single-family permits were up 10 percent from 2010-11, they were down 31 percent from 2009-10, when 1,704 permits were issued.

However, the 151 August permits this year were more than the 111 last year and 107 the year before. The number of permits issued in May also was the highest of the three years.

Food notes

• Renovations were approved for tossgreen, a new restaurant concept in the Tinseltown area at 4375 Southside Blvd., No. 12. Elite Construction of Jax Inc. is the contractor for the $50,000 project. The owner is Bhalani & Son Inc., whose president is listed on state records as Manali Patel of Saint Johns.

• The City OK’d a tenant build-out for Teavana in St. Johns Town Center. D.G.G. General Contractors & Plumbing is handling the $150,000 project at 10281 Midtown Parkway, No. 197, in the former Marble Slab Creamery space.

Hostess Brands seeks union agreement

Dallasnews.com reported Friday that Teamsters union members who work for Hostess Brands Inc., based in Irving, Texas, voted 54 percent to 46 percent to take the company up on its “last, best offer.”

Dallasnews.com said the union vote was crucial because the company’s chief executive has said that without buy-in from the Teamsters, its largest union, and the bakers’ union, its second largest, the company will liquidate and sell off its brands, including Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread.

The two largest unions represent about 93 percent of the company’s unionized workforce, according to Dallasnews.com.

According to Dallasnews.com, Hostess said Friday the bakery union, with about 6,500 Hostess workers, voted to reject the deal, but it did not have a vote total.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers International Union voted to reject the deal, “sending the company back to the drawing board as it scrambles to find a way out of bankruptcy.”

Hostess Brands, maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, Suzy Q’s, Cupcakes, Sno Balls, Donettes and other products, filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws in January in New York.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has about 7,300 Hostess workers. Workers cast 4,400 votes, with 2,357 voting to approve the deal and 2,043 voting no.

“We are very grateful to the IBT-represented employees for ratifying our final offer,” said Hostess Brands chief executive Gregory Rayburn in the Dallasnews.com report.

“We know it was a difficult decision for them, but one that we believe is in the long-term best interests of the entire company and its 18,500 employees,” he said.

Rayburn said he was concerned that bakery union employees were given “bad information” during the voting process, according to the Journal.

Rayburn said Friday that the company would “launch a bankruptcy-court effort to force the union to accept the new labor deal,” the Journal said.

Both Dallasnews.com and the Journal said bakery union officials did not respond to requests for comment.

According to Dallasnews.com, Hostess said it intends to file a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y., to impose the changes ratified by the Teamsters on employees represented by the bakers’ union.

The news site reported that if the motion is granted, the changes, along with similar ones requested of the company’s smaller unions, will enable the company and its employees to avoid liquidation and emerge from Chapter 11.

”Short of doing this we’d have no choice but to shut down, and I can’t see having the minority of employees make the decision for the majority of employees who either voted to pass or didn’t … vote,” Rayburn said in the report.

The site quoted Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall as saying it was a difficult decision.

“Our members are frustrated at being in the position to bail out the company again,” he said, referring to the company’s 2004 trip to bankruptcy court.

“But overall (members) were willing to accept modifications with the hope that Hostess will recover and be in a better position in the years to come. At the end of the day, our members recognized that they can’t replace their pay and benefits in the non-union sector,” he said.

According to Dallasnews.com, the Teamsters approved a pact that grants union workers a 25 percent equity stake in a restructured Hostess but calls for an across-the-board pay cut of 8 percent. Wage increases in the following years would give back half of that.

In economic terms, the pact offered to the bakers’ union is similar.

The deal also includes reduced pension benefits and changes in work rules and gives the company the ability to outsource some delivery work.

According to the news site, the company has repeatedly blamed work rules, health care costs and participation in a multiemployer pension program for its financial woes.

“The company’s current cost structure is not competitive, primarily due to legacy pension and medical benefit obligations and restrictive work rules,” the company said when it sought bankruptcy protection in January.

“Those issues, combined with the economic downturn and a more difficult competitive landscape, created a worsening liquidity situation that prompted the need for a reorganization,” it said.

Members of the company’s many unions countered that Hostess has squandered past give-backs and engendered outrage when it awarded large raises to company executives.

Hostess Brands, then called Interstate Bakeries Corp., sought bankruptcy protection in September of 2004 and exited in 2009, the site reported.

The company had filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification in May in the states in which it operates. Its Florida filing indicated layoffs could start July 7, but when the date approached, spokesman Lance Ignon said there were no immediate plans to lay off the workers.

“The goal is to restructure Hostess and come out of Chapter 11 as a stronger company,” Ignon said then.

Ignon said the WARN filing with the state in May was a legal requirement that plant closings and layoffs could occur, “but it was completely conditional.”

The Florida WARN indicated that Hostess might lay off 340 statewide employees, including 185 in Northeast Florida at eight bakery outlets and at the North Florida manufacturing plant.

The notices listed the layoff dates as July 7-21.

Hostess Brands issued a statement at the time that it mailed conditional WARN notices to all 18,500 employees around the country that a sale or wind down of the company was possible in the future during the restructuring under Chapter 11.

“However, our goal is still to emerge from bankruptcy as a growing company and there are no immediate actions being taken to sell or wind down the company. We are simply fulfilling our requirements by sending these notices,” said the statement at that time.

The six bakery outlets in the Jacksonville area operate as Merita or Dolly Madison stores, according to Hostessbrands.com.

Shands Jacksonville honored

Shands Jacksonville was named a “Rising Star” by the University Healthsystem Consortium, a national alliance of academic medical centers and affiliated hospitals. 

Shands Jacksonville was recognized for significant improvements and exemplary performance in patient safety, mortality, clinical effectiveness and equity of care as defined in the consortium’s Quality and Accountability Study. 

To be named a “Rising Star,” an organization has to move up 20 spots in the consortium’s annual hospital rankings. It awarded Shands Jacksonville four stars, rating the hospital 19th out of 116 academic medical centers, up from 44 the previous year.

“This is another example of how dedicated the employees of Shands Jacksonville and the University of Florida College of Medicine are to their patients and the communities in Northeast Florida,” said Jim Burkhart, president and CEO of Shands Jacksonville.

Shands Jacksonville was one of four organizations nationwide to be named a “Rising Star.” The others were Duke University Hospital, the Medical University of South Carolina and the Cleveland Clinic.

Shands Jacksonville and the UF College of Medicine jointly provide services at centers throughout the region, including an academic medical center, community clinics, the UF Proton Therapy Institute and the region’s only Level I trauma center.

kmathis@baileypub.com

@MathisKb

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