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Business in brief: Wilcox will close dairy by the end of April

Wilcox Family Farms will close its Cheney dairy at the end of the month, lay off the employees, and sell the equipment and real estate.

The company dairy at Roy, Wash., was closed last week, but Wilcox officials had said they expected to keep the Cheney operation going.

That, said spokeswoman Kathy Martin, was not possible.

“It just didn’t make sense to keep that facility open,” she said. “They decided to go back to their roots.”

She was referring to Wilcox Family Farms’ egg division, also at Roy. The family will continue its 100-year-old egg operation and plans to focus resources on expanding natural, organic and cage-free egg products produced on their 1,500-acre farm.

“We want to get back to what we do best – real family farming,” said Jim Wilcox.

Wilcox Family Farms opened the milk plant in Cheney in 1997. It produces more than 230,000 gallons of milk for sale in Eastern Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

Martin said the company has two job fairs planned to help employees – fewer than 50 – find new positions.

Among the organizations expected to attend are Darigold, Humanix, Haakon Industries and Cascade Windows.

The first job fair is scheduled for Thursday, the second April 16.

– Bert Caldwell

New york

U.S. financial industry hemorrhaging jobs

The U.S. financial industry has been shedding jobs at a record clip, and some analysts predict the pace will accelerate as banks cut costs in the face of the housing market slump and weak economy.

Analysts at the financial research firm Celent LLC said in a report Tuesday that it expects the U.S. commercial banking industry – essentially, all companies that lend or collect deposits – to lose 200,000 of its 2 million jobs over the next 12 to 18 months.

An annual loss of 200,000 jobs at the nation’s commercial banks would be unprecedented.

In 2007, the financial services sector – which consists mostly of commercial banks – announced job cuts that totaled a record 153,000, according to the job placement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. More than half of those cuts were in the mortgage-lending business and occurred nationwide, particularly in New York and California.

Octavio Marenzi, head of Celent’s financial consultancy unit, said more layoffs are inevitable as the subprime crisis hits other parts of the banking industry and spreads beyond mortgages to mortgage-related products, such as home-equity loans, and other types of lending, such as credit cards.

“The banking industry over the past 40 years has never seen a downturn in its revenue growth,” Marenzi said. “In 2008, it looks like it will decrease for the first time in living memory. They’re going to have to respond with severe cost cutting. It’s not an environment they’re entirely used to.”

– Associated Press


Wal-Mart drops much-ridiculed claim

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is ending an effort to collect more than $400,000 in health care reimbursement from a former employee who suffered brain damage in a traffic accident.

The world’s largest retailer said in a letter to the family of Deborah Shank that it will not seek to collect money the Shanks won in an injury lawsuit against a trucking company for the accident.

Wal-Mart’s top executive for human resources, Pat Curran, wrote that Shank’s extraordinary situation had made the company re-examine the situation.

Deborah’s husband, Jim Shank, welcomed the news. His lawyer said Wal-Mart deserves credit for doing the right thing.

Wal-Mart has been roundly criticized in newspaper editorials, on cable news shows and by union foes for its claim to the funds.

– Associated Press