New England Motor Freight Inc.'s abrupt closure has left a void in Carbon County.
The Elizabeth, New Jersey-based trucking company gave a one-day notice last month that it would lay off all employees at its facility in Mahoning Township, as well as two others in Pennsylvania, in Camp Hill and Irwin.
The company’s sudden departure caught Carbon County officials by surprise.
“We were kind of blindsided by it,” said Kathy Henderson, director of economic development for the Carbon Chamber and Economic Development Corp. “Totally not expecting it at all, especially with truck drivers being in high demand.”
She said the company eliminated 200 positions, with most held by local residents.
Henderson said she has not been able to connect with a representative from the company.
“I just don’t know what happened this time,” Henderson said. “It seems like maybe they spread themselves too thin. I think our next challenge is finding out what company we can get into that building now. It will create a hole here for sure,” Henderson said.
NEMF representatives did not return requests for comment.
Founded in 1977, the company provides less-than-truckload carrier services in the United States and Canada. It has terminals across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.
The company and 10 related entities filed on Feb. 11 for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the District of New Jersey.
In a news release, the company said it intends to use the proceedings to start winding down its operations.
All but 12 of New England Motor Freight’s facilities are closed. The company is not selling the Carbon County building, said Vincent Colistra, a senior managing director with Phoenix Management Services Inc. of Philadelphia and chief restructuring officer for the company. He declined further comment on the reasons for the company’s closure.
The company issued a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN notice to the state Department of Labor & Industry on Feb. 14, The layoffs began the next day and finished on March 1.
“We have worked hard to explore options for New England Motor Freight, but the macro-economic factors confronting this industry are significant,” Colistra wrote in the WARN notice.
Local efforts are underway to find new jobs for the affected employees
Henderson said she has put interested employers in touch with PA CareerLink Carbon County, an employment center in Jim Thorpe, so they could get their contact information to laid-off employees.
The CareerLink office held a meeting Feb. 20 that attracted about 65 workers from the Mahoning Township facility, said Gary Wentz, director at PA CareerLink Carbon County.
“They seemed like a tight-knit group; we got the word out about how to file for unemployment,” Wentz said
The PA CareerLink Lehigh Valley of Allentown, meanwhile, held a job fair on Feb. 27 focused on transportation, logistics and warehousing, he added.
With truckers in high demand, many of the affected workers have found employment elsewhere, even if that means commuting farther into Lehigh Valley, according to Wentz.
“Those people that are starting to look for jobs are finding them,” Wentz said. “With their skills, there are job opportunities out there. About one-third of those workers were drivers. Even some of the dockworkers told me they found a lot of good jobs in the Lehigh Valley. They knew they were going to have to look at opportunities in other markets.”
As for the facility itself, he said, the location is not attractive for a new trucking company, he said. Wentz said he did not think another trucking operation would work in this area.
“As far as what’s going to happen to the facility, it’s hard to say,” Wentz said.