Representatives with tech giant Hewlett-Packard Co. announced Monday the company will be eliminating about 500 call center positions at its Conway location.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company moved in to the 150,000 square-foot facility, located on 180 acres in Meadows Technology Park, in January 2010. The building is owned by Conway Development Corporation. More than 1000 employees in technical and call center positions are employed there.
Company officials gathered workers at the Conway Expo Center about 2 p.m. to deliver the news in a closed meeting.
Sen. Jason Rapert and State Rep. David Meeks both confirmed they were in a Monday morning meeting with company representatives who announced that the employees would be phased out over a period of four to six months, with the employees receiving two months severance pay.
Rapert said he would work closely with Governor Mike Beebe’s office, with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and other state and local officials to help locate another industry that could utilize the space vacated by HP.
“Today, my thoughts are with the individuals and their families who are facing an uncertain future because of this disappointing news,” Rapert said. “Anything the company can do to ease this transition will be of invaluable help to the families affected by today’s announcement. I’m thankful Hewlett-Packard is maintaining a presence in Conway, and I hope the economic climate improves to the point the company can restore and even expand its workforce. They have provided tremendous benefits to our community, and like everyone else in Conway I’m saddened by this news.”
An official with the governor’s Dislocated Worker Task Force is expected to meet with affected workers soon, Rapert added.
HP Media Relations Officer Sarah Pompei said the move will happen immediately, although some positions will remain for the next few months.
“HP internally announced plans to restructure its Customer Support Specialist/Contact Center footprint in Conway,” Pompei said. “This is a component of the plan announced on May 2012, which is designed to simplify business processes, advance innovation and deliver better results for our customers, employees and shareholders.
“We reaffirm our commitment to providing innovative technology solutions to every community we reach,” she said. “As well, HP will be taking steps to help our affected employees during this transition.”
The employees are currently gathered in a closed meeting with company officials at the Conway Expo Center.
A worker who was laid off on Monday told The Log Cabin Democrat that his last scheduled workday is Tuesday, and the last pay day has been set for July 19. “They are calling it an ‘employment transition,’” he said.
Jamie Gates, senior vice president with the Conway Development Corp, said the news isn’t the kind they enjoy getting.
“Our first thoughts are with the employees who are affected. Thankfully announcements like this have been few and far between in Conway. It’s an example of why communities have to work every day at attracting jobs and growing the economy,” Gates said.
“HP is still a significant and positive influence on our economy. As economic developers we will continue to promote the Conway facility as a site for growing sectors within the company. As an organization we will do what we can to facilitate successful transition for those affected and continue to attract jobs and economic opportunity to Conway.”
Conway Mayor Tab Townsell said the news came as a surprise. “We weren’t expecting this at all,” Townsell said. “We know the company has had some struggles and had made the company-wide announcement last year, but we didn’t know how that would affect Conway. Obviously it’s something we’d rather not see, and we feel for all of the people affected.”
In a press release, Congressman Tim Griffin said his heart goes out to all of those affected by the announcement.
“This is terrible and heartbreaking news for the workers, their families and all of Arkansas, and I will work with state and local leaders to help those impacted,” he said. “HP’s decision to restructure its business does not change the fact that Conway and Arkansas remain great places for high tech companies to call home, but it highlights why strengthening the economy and encouraging job growth remain my top priorities.”
About 1,400 workers are employed at the Conway facility.
Hewlett-Packard was recognized as Outstanding Large Employer in March during the annual meeting of the Conway Chamber of Commerce.
(Megan Reynolds is a staff writer and can be reached by phone at 501-505-1277 or by email at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter @LCDonline.)