Town establishes Fingerhut ‘disaster plan’

The St. Paul “Pioneer Press” reports that the city of St. Cloud, MN, where Fingerhut Cos. has employed more than 1,000 people for years, is preparing for the workers’ anticipated April 5 layoffs as it would a natural disaster. David Gruenes, who served as the Minnesota’s commerce commissioner during the Red River floods that devastated the state in 1997, compared the layoffs to that event. “Both really were potential disasters of significant magnitude,” Gruenes told the paper.

Federated Department Stores, which in January announced it would close Fingerhut unless a buyer came forward, said last week that it would begin laying off several thousand employees in St. Cloud and other Fingerhut locations on April 5. Federated agreed to sell Fingerhut to Business Development Group Acquisitions (BDGA), which signed a letter of intent to buy the beleaguered cataloger on Feb. 21. But as of last week, BDGA had yet to complete its financing for the deal.

The closing of Fingerhut will cost the St. Cloud economy $80 million-$140 million, St. Cloud State University economics professor Mark Partridge told the “Pioneer Press.”

The St. Cloud Housing & Redevelopment Authority has developed five task forces in response to the Fingerhut layoffs: one to find a buyer for the business; a legislative task force to increase political support; a group searching for a new tenant for the St. Cloud Fingerhut facility; a group to help vendors and suppliers hurt by the closing; and a human resources group to provide for dislocated workers.

Meanwhile, the Union of Needletrades Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) is planning a protest rally on April 5 in front of Federated’s headquarters in Cincinnati.

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