Western Dairy Transport lays off about 75 workers

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

Western Dairy Transport in Portales laid off about 75 employees Wednesday because a large contract expired.

Company President David Shelton, who works in the Stephenville, Texas, office, said WDT’s multi-year local-hauling contract with Dairy Farmers of America expired. The new contract was awarded to Greatwide Logistics Service, based in Dallas, and Ruan Transportation, based in Des Moines, Iowa. About two-thirds of Western Dairy Transport’s business in the Clovis/Portales area came from the DFA contract, he said.

“We still have other lines of business in Portales, so we won’t be completely exiting there,” Shelton said.

About 30 drivers and 45 support personnel, all involved with local hauling, were laid off. Shelton said employees handling nationwide transportation aren’t affected.

Shelton estimated about 65 workers were left in Portales.

Some of the laid-off drivers were moving to the companies awarded the DFA contract, he said.

The loss of the DFA contract also impacted the Roswell Western Dairy Transport terminal, which let 12 employees go. Shelton said fewer workers were laid off in Roswell because the company had much less DFA business there.

By mid-2010, Shelton hopes to stabilize the terminal and even grow again in Portales.

Meanwhile, Roosevelt County Economic Development Executive Director Greg Fisher said he was working with Western Dairy Transport to monitor the situation and make sure it remains stable here.

“We highly value WDT in our community and are doing what we can to help them get through this rough time so that they can get back on the growth path next year,” he said.

Fisher is also talking with Greatwide and Ruan about their upcoming operations here.

Also, Shirley Gomez, career development supervisor with the New Mexico Workforce Connection Center in Portales, said she worked with more than 10 of the laid-off employees Wednesday.

Gomez said her services include help with enrolling for unemployment benefits, working on resumes and registering with Workforce Connection to start looking for jobs.

She can also teach people how to enroll in school.

“We’re just providing everything we can to help them through this transition,” she said.