Goldbelt lays off 40 people

Terrorist attacks, weak tourism force cutbacks

Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2001

By Friday, layoffs spurred by reduced income from tourism will total 40 Goldbelt Inc., employees, including nearly half of the executive staff, corporate officials said Wednesday.

Juneau's urban Native corporation began eliminating positions early in October to cut costs, with the last phase of layoffs set for Friday. Goldbelt employs 600 people.

In addition to 11 executive staff cuts, it is scaling back five positions at Goldbelt's Juneau subsidiaries, 12 positions in Glacier Bay and 12 positions in its Seattle subsidiaries, said Chief Executive Officer Gary Droubay.

The corporation, Droubay said, also is requiring some managers to take two weeks unpaid leave over the winter and cutting some management salaries by 10 percent. Droubay also said Goldbelt may have to cancel its winter cruise offerings in Baja, Mexico, in the Sea of Cortez because of abysmal bookings.

"It's hard to quantify what we are losing," said Corporate Human Resources Manager Karen Livingston. "This has a real human quality to it because they were not only employees but also shareholders, so to my thinking it's been terrible. It's still fresh and it's been very emotional around here."

The layoffs come after a slow season that came on the heels of a $3.5 million loss in 2000. Droubay said he doesn't know yet the projected losses for this year.

Goldbelt has more than 3,300 shareholders, more than half of whom live in Juneau, according to a corporate press release. The corporation operates tourism, cruise and lodging businesses in addition to managing stocks and land. Its tourism ventures include the Mount Roberts Tramway, Glacier Bay tours, Auk Nu tours and the Goldbelt Hotel.

Livingston said the corporation usually hires about 350 seasonal employees whose jobs end with the summer tourist season. However, this year Goldbelt decided to make eight of its executive accounting positions seasonal also, she said.

"We've always kept these people through the winter in order to keep the talent we have even if there wasn't much for them to do," Livingston said. "But we've had to find ways to cut costs and it's just not efficient to run things that way."

She added that with new accounting software the corporation is able to do the same work with fewer people. Livingston said that some of the executive positions may be available again in the summer.

Glacier Bay Lodge bookings, Auk Nu tour bookings, and Goldbelt Hotel sales were all down 10 percent this year. Droubay said the company relies heavily on independent travelers, whose numbers already were down over the summer. But terrorist events on the East Coast dealt the final blow and affected cash flow across the board, he said.

"September definitely hurt," Droubay said. "Between the slow economy which was already there and the incident on '9/11' ... we're just trying to hold things together right now."

Livingston said the corporation has tried to help place the laid off workers in other companies and has offered help with resumes. She said many have obtained other jobs and Goldbelt has received inquiries from other companies looking for accounting help.

A shareholders meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. today at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

Melanie Plenda can be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.



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