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Southwest Time Record changes mean 37 layoffs

By Glen Chase

This article was published July 31, 2014 at 2:43 a.m.

The Southwest Times Record will lay off 37 people as it shifts its printing and mailroom operations from Fort Smith and Van Buren to facilities in Springdale and Lowell owned by Stephens Media LLC and WEHCO Media Inc. of Little Rock.

Times Record Publisher Tom Stallbaumer said Wednesday that the transition will be completed by early September. The move will be completed in two phases with its weekly newspaper in Van Buren moving before the Times Record, which is printed at 100 Rogers Ave. in downtown Fort Smith.

The newspaper had been looking for ways to reduce costs and become more efficient in recent years, Stallbaumer said. The decision to move the printing and mailroom operations was driven by the cost of maintaining the newspaper's plant, he said, which was built in the 1960s.

The Rogers Avenue facility was getting expensive to maintain, and finding parts for the press was difficult, he said.

"We were putting ourselves at risk of just not having any way to print a newspaper on certain nights," Stallbaumer said.

The employees who will lose their jobs will be provided severance packages and assistance finding new jobs. Several positions available in Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas could be offered to some of the affected employees, the Times Record said in a news release.

Stallbaumer said the Times Record has a circulation of about 32,000 copies on Sundays and 28,000 on weekdays.

In a story about the move in Wednesday's Times Record, Ed Moss, president and chief executive officer of Stephens Media, said: "With our partnership in Northwest Arkansas, and the newer production equipment in use there, we saw this as an opportunity to upgrade production capacity of the Times Record."

The Times Record is outsourcing its printing and mailroom operations to Northwest Arkansas Newspapers Inc. in Lowell, said Northwest Arkansas Newspapers President Todd A. Nelson.

The move will affect deadlines, which have not yet been determined.

The company is planning to sell the Rogers Avenue plant. Stallbaumer said the old plant's location downtown isn't as suitable for a production plant as it once was.

Created in 2009, Northwest Arkansas Newspapers LLC is a joint venture between Stephens Media and WEHCO Media, the parent company of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Stephens Media, which publishes daily and weekly newspapers in nine states, primarily in Arkansas, has its headquarters in Las Vegas and is owned by members of the Stephens family.

Northwest Arkansas Newspapers publishes the Northwest Arkansas edition of the Democrat-Gazette, The Morning News, the Northwest Arkansas Times and the Benton County Daily Record. It also publishes several weekly newspapers.

In March, Stephens Media pared the staff at its Little Rock operation, eliminating five of six jobs in the bureau. In May, the company eliminated 10 jobs at its Arkansas newspaper operations, including five at the Times Record.

Business on 07/31/2014

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