Wilmington Residents React to Job Losses

Nov 19, 2008

Few places are feeling the grim economy as directly as the southwest Ohio town of Wilmington. Last week, international shipping company DHL announced that it will be reducing its domestic operations and laying off over 8000 jobs at ABX Air and Astar, two companies serving DHL at the Wilmington hub. While not entirely unexpected, the news confirms the fears of the soon to be displaced workers, and the potentially devastating effect on the town itself. As the reality of the situation sets in, community members grapple with what's in store for the future of Wilmington.

The General Denver Hotel is a popular dining spot for many Wilmington Residents. Just across the street from the St. Columbkille Catholic Church, it's where Father Jim Wedig is having lunch. Like many in the town, the DHL layoffs affect him, too, as the Church has been dealing with how to address the increased needs of the community.

"We're turning away lots and lots of people because we simply don't have the ability to deal," says Wedig.

Wedig estimates that the demand on the church for charity relief is four times more than the usual amount. He says that's pressure that the Church hasn't yet seen.

"You hate to turn anyone away. We help as many people as we can and after that we have to say that we don't have it. We can't do it," says Wedig.

But he also looks ahead to the future. Wedig says that the airpark is still very valuable to Wilmington.

"So in the long run, I think we'll be fine. How long it will take us to get to the long run; that's the real question and I expect some very hard times," says Wedig.

"You know Wilmington has gone through a whole lot of these before. Cincinnati Milacron left. Heck, the Bengals left and they've managed to survive, you know, so I think it will be a while, but it will come back," says John Nawrocki, who sits at the bar of the General Denver, echoing the same optimism for the town's future. But the reality of the situation in Wilmington dampens his spirits.

"As far as DHL, we can think about it, cry about it. We can't do much about it, cause they're gone. There's so going to be so many people vying for many positions, that i think the population is going to go down in Wilmington. There's going to be a bunch of houses for sale, adding to the problems in the real estate market," says Nawrocki.

Across town, at a restaurant frequented by DHL workers, Susie Simms is less confident than the crowd at the General Denver.

"I heard a man on TV saying we've weathered storms before. I think times were a lot different then. It's going to be a lot tougher to weather this, but we probably will weather it," says Simms.

Simms retired from ABX Air several years back. She wanted to avoid the mounting tension she felt about the impending layoffs at the airpark and decided to change her career.

"I feel bad for a lot of these people because they have nowhere to go and nothing to do. This is affecting the whole town. I mean, right now I'm the manager of some apartments. We've got vacancies and more vacancies coming because people are going to be laid off," says Simms.

Lonnie Stuckert still works at ABX Air, and has been for the last three years. It's even harder for him to find the silver lining from the layoffs. But at least, he says his short tenure makes it easier for him to adjust to losing his job.

"A lot of the people I work with, they've been there for seventeen to twenty years or even since the company started, so for them, it much more of a blow. And a lot of the people I work with are married couple so they're both being impacted by this. These other people, they're whole lives are based around that place. You know, they've grown up in it and raised their kids and they've been in this town for years, so it's a big deal." says Stuckert.

Stuckert says that hope for the future comes in form of finding another job, wherever that may be.

"I don't know. There's not really much you can do in this situation besides look forward, but it's definitely a dark and gloomy atmosphere," says Stuckert.

State officials have said that they are preparing to help aid the workers, families and communities affected by DHL's decision. For the people that live in Wilmington, hope remains, though it's clear that no matter what the future for the town, it's going to be a tough road ahead.

Mark Rembert contributed to this report