The following is from the Tallahassee Democrat on 8/12/06:St. Joe Co. lays off employeesNumber yet to be releasedBy Billy Bruce andFerdie De VegaDEMOCRAT STAFF WRITERSThe downturn in Florida's real-estate market hit home Friday when The St. Joe Co. laid off employees in three divisions statewide, a company spokesman said.Chris Corr, chief strategy officer at St. Joe's Jacksonville headquarters, said the company is merging its Commercial, Land, and Towns and Resorts divisions into one company that will be known as just The St. Joe Co."We're responding to the business cycle," Corr said. "There's been a slowdown in the Florida real-estate market. We believe it's cyclical. It is going to come back. We believe in the market here."Corr declined to provide exact numbers of employees who are losing their jobs, but he said the company will release more detailed information Monday that will explain the reorganization.In 2005, St. Joe Co. had 1,362 employees, according to Hoovers.com."We have had a work-force reduction, but I can't give you exact numbers," Corr said. "There are employees who have not yet heard about it."Teary-eyed workers carrying office boxes outside the company's Tallahassee office on Esplanade Way about 1 p.m. declined to comment. Two men climbing into a pickup truck in the company's parking lot said they'd been laid off but declined further comment."Do I work for St. Joe's? Not any more," one of the men said. "I got a good severance package, though."The merging of the three divisions will increase efficiency of operations, Corr added."This is a restructuring and a reorganization," he said. "This will give us a more direct empowerment in the communities we do business in."St. Joe owns 825,000 acres, mostly in Northwest Florida. It is seeking approval to build 44,000 homes. WhiteFence Farms east of Tallahassee and SummerCamp near St. Teresa in Franklin County are among those developments.The company recently announced that its net income was $19 million for the second quarter - nearly half of what it was during the same quarter in 2005.Company officials noted that sales are slowing in its primary-home communities. Earlier this year, St. Joe had reported slowing sales in its resort communities.St. Joe is not the first developer in Florida to lay off employees this year. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel noted that G.L. Homes in Sunrise laid off 68 workers in June. In addition, WCI Communities, a Bonita Springs-based builder, cut jobs in July but would not disclose the number.
Here is a follow-on article from the Tallahassee Democrat on 8/15:St. Joe woes won't affect projectsEveritt Drew to lead the company's new Capital RegionBy Billy Bruceand Ferdie De VegaDEMOCRAT STAFF WRITERSOngoing layoffs and reorganization at The St. Joe Co. won't affect the development of SouthWood or a proposed project on Tallahassee's south side, a company spokesman said Monday.Company officials still had not disclosed the number of jobs cut in the downsizing move, and Tallahassee's mayor says the city will do whatever is needed to help the affected workers.Also, St. Joe announced that it has picked J. Everitt Drew to head its new Capital Region.St. Joe is trimming its bulky, three-division structure, merging the divisions into one company in response to the recent downturn in the real-estate market.But its huge SouthWood project and the proposed south-side project are "both going full steam ahead," said Brad Slappey, vice president of Investor Relations in the company's Jacksonville headquarters. "Sales might be a little slow, but we believe in the market. We still believe in those projects."SouthWood has sold 2,000 of 4,700 units, and the company is pressing ahead for government approvals of its south-side plans, Slappey said.Earlier this year, St. Joe filed its preliminary plans for the south-side project, which includes 2,800 homes, 1 million square feet of retail space, 150,000 square feet of office space and 300 hotel rooms on 1,625 acres. The company also hopes to attract schools and a 100-bed hospital."Things in real estate are slow right now, but the good part of having a company like St. Joe is that with all of our resources, we're still able to go ahead with these projects," Slappey said. "We're pretty excited about all of this."St. Joe, one of Florida's largest real-estate development companies, began layoffs in three former divisions last week, including job cuts in its Tallahassee offices. The layoffs are part of a merging of the company's commercial, land, and towns-and-resorts divisions. The company this week might release the number of jobs lost in its restructuring, Slappey said."If the numbers are big enough, we'll have to file something with the (Securities and Exchange Commission)," Slappey said. "We may do that in a few days."Company officials have not disclosed how many workers they employ in the Tallahassee area. Its annual report filed with the SEC for 2005 states that it had 1,230 full-time and 132 part-time employees. Of those, 1,097 worked in the former towns-and-resorts division, 35 in the commercial real-estate division, 63 in the land-sales division, 30 in the forestry division and 137 in other company positions, the report states.Tallahassee Mayor John Marks said the city will offer "any assistance that we are capable of providing" to the local St. Joe workers who have been laid off."Obviously anytime we have any layoffs of any employees of any company in the community we need to make sure they are taken care of," Marks said. "And we hope St. Joe will address any issues with the impact to their employees and their families."The city of Tallahassee regrets any layoffs in this community. We want to make sure our citizens are employed."As part of St. Joe's downsizing, its West Florida region has been divided into two regions. Tallahassee and Leon County now are part of the company's new Capital Region, which also includes Calhoun, Gadsden, Jackson and Wakulla counties and the eastern portion of Franklin County.The West Florida region consists of Bay, Walton, and Gulf counties and the western portion of Franklin, including Apalachicola.Drew, former chairman of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, has been named president of St. Joe's Capital Region."Everitt knows the area," Slappey said. "He was president of our land company division based in Tallahassee. He's the logical person to run that region."Drew joined the company in 1999 when it acquired SouthGroup, a regional real-estate brokerage, development, management and investment firm that he co-founded in 1984, according to The St. Joe Co.*******************My opinion is that when a company tightens its belt when revenues are down, it's a good sign. Some people panic on such news. To me, it's a sign of good management.
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