Purchase photos

Abilene-based ALCO will move headquarters to Texas




Special to The Hays Daily News

ABILENE -- At least two years of hints that longtime retailer ALCO will leave its birthplace became real Wednesday when company officials announced the headquarters is being moved to central Texas.

The 112-year-old company, which stripped "Duckwall" from its name last summer, will set up shop in June at Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.

"I don't think anybody was shocked, but it's definitely not good news for the job market and the economics of our town," said Kelly Cooper, chairman of the board of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce. "Anytime you have a huge company that was founded here, to see something like that move away is hard on the employees, hard on the psyche of the town."

Of the 140 people employed at ALCO's home base in Abilene, 40 are making the move; 10 to 20 will relocate to Abilene's distribution center; and another 25 will continue on the payroll through this fall, said Debbie Hagen, an ALCO spokeswoman in Leawood.

But ultimately, she said, 80 jobs will be eliminated. The company didn't release payroll figures.

The 150 people working at the ALCO Distribution Center in Abilene and the 30 working at the retail store in the town of 6,800 will not be affected.

Knowing the company was considering leaving, city leaders made attempts to change the minds of ALCO management, said David Dillner, Abilene city manager.

"We tried to open up a dialogue with them to determine what their thought process was and if there was anything we could do to facilitate a decision to stay in Abilene," Dillner said.

It was clear to him ALCO wasn't interested in incentives.

"In my opinion, they were looking at it as a business decision and not who could give them the best deal," Dillner said.

"(Dallas) was where they felt they could best operate their business."

Moving to a metro area is necessary and Dallas is the right choice, CEO Rich Wilson is quoted in a press release as saying. The Texas city offers easy access to many of ALCO's 217 stores in 23 states, the release reads, and enhances the company's "ability to attract and retain executive level leadership." ALCO employs approximately 3,500 companywide. Most of its broad-line stores are in "small, underserved communities."

The company will consider adding a second distribution center to lower freight expense and better serve its stores, according to the release, but nothing is planned for the remainder of this year.

"We know this will have a major impact on our associates and the community in Abilene," Wilson is quoted in the release as saying. "Many of our associates have spent much of their careers here and we want them to know how very much we appreciate that. Our employees and the Abilene community have been extremely supportive of this company. Change is never easy. However, change is necessary in order to grow and move forward."

Abilene is putting together a plan to fill the void. Cooper is confident the town will survive this challenge.

"We're a tough town. We're tough people," he said. "We'll get through it."