FREEPORT (WIFR) – Hundreds of Freeport workers are out of a job today as MetLife Insurance announces its closing. The company’s payroll makes up for one third of the “white collar” workers in the finance, insurance, and real-estate field in the city.
“These are our friends we’re talking about. In a smaller town like this we know an awful lot of people.”
Patrick Beckman, the owner of Cannova’s in Freeport says he can’t believe hundreds of his friends and customers will soon be out of a job. More than 400 employees at Freeport’s MetLife office just learned the office is closing. Although about 200 will work from home, the rest will soon be searching for work.
“If you think of it affecting at least four more people, you have families, you have relatives and these are people who have lived here all their lives,” said
Beckman says he’ll feel that impact at his restaurant. So will Tim Heiden from Tim’s auto care, which is across the street from MetLife.
“It’s going to hurt me, it’s going to hurt all businesses like me,” said Heiden.
As MetLife employees decide their next steps over the next few months, business owners like Beckman and Heiden will also look for new ways to manage a possible drop in business.
“Hopefully some of these people will still be in Freeport so I can still keep them as a customer. If not, you’re always out looking for new customers, but that’s not always possible either.”
“We’re concerned about the evolution of our business, so we can’t afford to have too many people leave.”
MetLife says the layoffs will come over the next few months. The employees losing their jobs here can apply for positions at the company’s other locations. The company says it decided to close the Freeport office as it moves toward its goal of having more workers in fewer locations.
Mayor Jim Gitz says he was just as surprised to hear about the layoffs as everyone else. He says his first priority now is helping these workers find new jobs.
"I think it is very important that the community college, highland community college, the city, the state of Illinois and everyone work together for packages that are going to be helpful to the men and women who are facing this new decision,” said Mayor Gitz.
Gitz says he plans on calling Governor Pat Quinn and Senator Dick Durbin tomorrow to get help bringing in new businesses to Freeport, but says it may take some time to fill the huge gap MetLife is leaving in Freeport.
MetLife has been downsizing in Freeport since 2006. It’s one of six major companies in Freeport that has either closed or had large layoffs in the last few years.
16 months ago, the Illinois State Employment Office closed and merged its operation with Rockford. Honeywell, Newell, and Titan Tire still remain three of the largest Stephenson County employers along with Freeport Health Network and the Freeport School District.
FREEPORT (WIFR) – Employees at the MetLife facility in Freeport just got the bad news this morning that they’ll be out of a job by the end of the year.
A MetLife spokesperson says about 200 employees will transition to a work-from-home arrangement and the rest can apply for jobs at other MetLife locations across the U.S.
Freeport’s Chamber of Commerce says by its latest records, which are a few years old, MetLife has about 460 employees in Freeport.
The company says these changes are not immediate but will come by the end of the year.