The gloves are coming off to survive recession | ParkRecord.com

The gloves are coming off to survive recession

by Andrew Kirk, OF THE RECORD STAFF

No pain, no gain.

That’s what many Summit County businesses and organizations are facing as optimism for an early end to the recession dwindles and decision makers cut staff to stay on track with their core missions.

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has been making cutbacks and reducing travel since September, said director of marketing Tom Kelly.

"One of the things we try to do in our situation, the thing we always look at is what is our core business? Our core is service to athletes," he said. "Our concern is to make adjustments without impacting services to those athletes."

Kelly declined to name how many people like former spokesperson Juliann Fritz have lost jobs because of the recession, saying it’s hard because USSA is such a large organization. But he said workforce adjustments are only one part of a bigger picture.

"We’re not filling open positions, we’re covering positions differently. This is not anything that just happened today," he said.

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Farther north in Coalville, DeAnn Geary, president of Geary Construction, said she’ll be in a better position to provide work for her employees in the summer if she makes budget cuts now.

Geary spoke with obvious pride of the work her company has done in Summit County including roads above Marsac Avenue and at Quinn’s Junction. But she said terminating seven workers, 10 percent of her total force, was the most painful thing she experienced in 2008.

She also said she had to lay-off her seasonal workers earlier and won’t be able to hire them back until later. Like many other businesses in the area, this was heavily impacted by the lack of snow.

Many Geary employees do contracted snow removal and with less to remove, fewer of them are needed.

She said she’s aware of the impact this has had on Coalville families, but she believes those companies that keep costs down now, will win more jobs in 2009.

A conservative business strategy has allowed Geary Construction to grow during previously slow times, and can be credited for its 60 years of success, she said.

"The key to surviving in the construction industry is keeping debt load down," Geary said.

Russ Hortin, co-owner of The Huddle Café on Main Street in Coalville, is one of those seasonal workers. If snow falls, he said he might be called back to work a few hours in a plow.

He said he volunteered to take the lay-off since he has the restaurant to fall back on and is currently busy working on his home, he said.

"Everybody will have to struggle a bit here or there," he said. "Maybe this is something a little different than in years past."

Hortin said he’s grateful his wife works as well.

Coalville Mayor Duane Schmidt said having two-income households is saving many local families this winter.

"I haven’t heard any horror stories yet. If one spouse is laid off, the other can maintain a job," he said. "This thing is going to affect everybody in some way, in some manner. Even those who haven’t lost their job, the prospect of getting a raise is bad, the prospect of getting bonuses is slim."

Schmidt is a business man himself. He owns Humpty Dumpsters and said he’s got more rolling dumpsters (like for construction sites) in his yard than in a long time.

He laid off two of his four drivers because there simply wasn’t enough work for them. Making matters worse, it’s getting harder to collect money from clients, he said. If one company isn’t paid for work they do, they can’t pay those they owe.

Schmidt said the situation has made him grateful for the business he does have. Originally from Maryland, he said people there are telling him there’s nothing there for them to do.

"I’m not happy about it, but we have to hunker down and survive until things work out. I don’t see the forecast changing quickly," he said.