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Pfizer Move to Result in 186 Layoffs in Vonore

From Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN) (December 1, 2010)

Dec. 01--Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is outsourcing its logistics and distribution operations, which will result in about 186 layoffs when the company turns over its Vonore distribution plant to a third-part logistics company.

Pfizer announced Tuesday that its Global Manufacturing division is restructuring distribution operations and plans to leave the Monroe County plant that serves the United States and other countries.

As Pfizer exits the distribution business, affected employees will be eligible for severance and other benefits. Pfizer spokesman Rick Chambers said there will be employment opportunities for the employees with Exel, the third-party logistics service provider, which will hire a work force to operate the plant.

The layoffs are the result of an agreement Pfizer is negotiating with Exel, based in Ohio, and with Deutsche Post DHL, a global logistics group, to contract out distribution of drug and health care products, and to reduce excess capacity.

In the restructuring, the Vonore distribution center will be taken over by Exel, which will distribute Pfizer products from the 640,000-square-foot plant in the Tellico West Industrial Park.

"The restructuring of our U.S. logistics network is critical to our efforts to remain competitive in the future so that we can continue to meet customer needs," said Philip Rose, an executive with Pfizer Global Manufacturing's Americas Logistics & Supply Operations. "(Tuesday's) announcement is very difficult to make, however, because of its impact on our colleagues. But we are actively working on strategies that we hope will minimize disruption both to our employees who work in Vonore to the local community."

Chambers said the transition is expected to be complete next summer, with Exel taking over the building and continuing a work force to distribute Pfizer products. He said affected employees can interview for Exel positions.

"With the discussions we've had with Exel, we believe Exel will hire as many of the current employees as they can," Chambers said.

Ron Hammontree, executive director of the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency, which manages Tellico West Industrial Park, said the Pfizer move isn't unexpected.

Wyeth operated the plant until its 2009 acquisition by Pfizer.

Hammontree said more companies are outsourcing their logistics/distribution operations.

"This is not an unusual situation for companies these days. The Conagra facility at Tellico West is operated by TLC. It's a very common way for companies to operate their logistics programs," Hammontree said.

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Posted: December 2010