The ripple effect of corporate closures across local workforce and commercial properties
Over the past decade, Craig has seen the closure of a number of local businesses tied to large corporate chains, which has lead not only to a shift in local employment, but also significant changes in commercial properties.
The community has especially felt the impact this year. Since January, three large corporate chains have closed local restaurants and stores with little to no notice. Village Inn in Craig announced its closure in February, giving the 27 to 30 mostly full-time staff only a few weeks to find new employment.
Walgreens announced its closure in early October, and the store’s inventory is already being whittled down to prepare for a November closing. Less than a week ago, the local Pizza Hut was closed permanently with a same-day notice given to employees.
Many of the closures are connected to corporate restructuring and the shuttering of stores in rural communities that are not as profitable as ones in high-population areas. The pandemic has also stirred changes in the nation’s workforce, causing many employees and employers to rethink their careers and business models.
“I’m reminded of when Safeway closed and I heard people say, “Gosh, if I’d only known they were closing, I would have shopped there more,'” said Christina Oxley, the business services coordinator with the Colorado Workforce Center. “It only reiterates the use-it-or-lose-it paradigm, and I hope it reminds people to spread their dollars amongst as many local businesses as possible.”
Ripples across the workforce
In the wake of a closure of a retail store or restaurant, the glaring issues left in the community are often the loss of a larger employer coupled with a vacant commercial building.
“Because of the current number of job openings, we don’t expect these workers to remain unemployed for long,” said Oxley, adding that the Workforce Center can support displaced workers, whether they want to remain in the same industry or transition into something new.
Looking back at the closures of the local Safeway in 2013, Family Dollar in 2014 and Kmart in 2016, there were statements from corporate representatives that staff members would have opportunities to relocate within the company. But whether employees decide to stay with a company really depends on the industry and individual factors.
Oxley said that staff in more advanced, management level positions are more likely to transfer to other stores, whereas frontline workers tend to stay in their communities.
“Part of that is wage,” Oxley said. “It doesn’t make sense to relocate for entry or mid-level wages. Housing is another factor. Prices and interest rates are high and availability is low, which affects people’s ability to relocate.”
Some workers may consider similar positions in nearby communities, making them commuters. But Oxley said that with the number of local jobs available, commuting is likely not the best solution for entry or mid-level employees.
Repurposing corporate infrastructure
Because most of shuttered corporate stores in Craig were established along U.S. Highway 40, the closures left vacant commercial buildings in highly visible areas of the community. But many of the former corporate buildings have since been repurposed by local entities.
For example, the Safeway closing came as a shock to the community after being in business since 1929, and a major concern expressed across the community was that the retail building at the west end of the Centennial Mall would sit vacant.
It was speculated that it would take another grocery chain or big-box retailer to fill that space, and the location did sit vacant for several years before it was repurposed. Yampa Valley Medical Center purchased the building in 2015 with the intention to renovate it for out-patient services, but the vision never came to fruition.
Then in 2021 the locally-owned Big O Tires moved its operations into the former Safeway building from its original location a couple of storefronts down in the Centennial Mall. The move took four months of renovations, but it allowed the longstanding family-owned tire shop to upgrade from a space they’d outgrown.
The Family Dollar was a similar story. After a wave of 370 corporate closures hit the Craig location, the 2,220-square-foot storefront at 460 Pershing St. sat vacant for about four years. However, Eyecare Specialties, another well-established locally owned business, transformed the former discount store into a state-of-the-art eye care clinic in 2018.
Kmart’s closure in 2016 sparked similar concerns about the 100,000-square-foot building. During the few years it sat empty, the location was considered briefly for an indoor adventure park. However, once the adventure park passed on the former retail building, Moffat County purchased it in 2019 to renovate for the county offices and courts.
Although the recently closed Walgreens and Pizza Hut locations leave two buildings with uncertain futures, Craig Economic Development Manager Shannon Scott remains optimistic.
“We try to look at these vacancies as an opportunity for us, to help market those locations for future businesses and future buyers,” said Scott, adding that under the newly reorganized Economic Development Advisory Committee, marketing these locations to businesses and investors is going to be a priority.
One of the committee’s initiatives will be to compile a list of the available commercial properties with information about the incentives and opportunities associated with each location. Scott said it could be a helpful tool for investors and developers.
According to Scott, both the Pizza Hut and Village Inn buildings are in enterprise zones, so there may be incentives available for business owners or developers who choose to move into those locations. The former Village Inn building was sold earlier this year, and Scott said a tenant is expected to move into the building in early 2023.
The Colorado Workforce Center can be a resource for workers affected by recent corporate closures. Business Services Coordinator Christina Oxley said there are a number of ways the Workforce Center can aid in career transitions including:
- Provide listings of job postings that workers can pursue independently
- Employment coaching
- Skills testing
- Support with up-skilling
- Help create or update resumes
- Practice interview skills
For more, visit 480 Barclay St in Craig, call 970-824-3246, or go to http://www.colorado.gov/cdle.
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