RHINELANDER - A bit of irony goes into Petco's decision to cut its pharmaceutical division at Doctors Foster and Smith in Rhinelander. According to the national pet care company, large growth in the pharmacy and prescription category of the pet industry will lead to pharmacists losing their jobs in the Northwoods.
The number is 17 to be exact, which Petco told Newswatch 12 via an email on Thursday will happen by the end of the year.
Petco's message was in response to Newswatch 12's follow up questions, namely how many employees would be affected by the closing and when changes would happen.
Wednesday, Petco announced plans to close the pharmacy, but didn't offer many specifics. Petco noted the change is largely due largely to growth in the industry outpacing what the existing facility here can handle.
"In anticipation of some significant growth in the pharmacy and prescription category of the pet industry in 2019 and beyond, one of those changes includes closing our existing DFS pharmacy and transitioning to an outside fulfillment provider," the original statement read.
A Petco spokeswoman told Newswatch 12 about 50 pharmacy technicians and support staff will be offered guaranteed jobs in other divisions at the Rhinelander facility for equal pay.
The news of the closure concerned Oneida County Economic Development Director Stacey Johnson, who said she learned of the news Wednesday afternoon. It comes about seven months after Petco cut 55 other jobs at Foster and Smith, mainly in marketing and e-commerce.
Petco took over Foster and Smith in early 2015.
"I would hate to say yes, that that is what we expect to see [when a large company buys a smaller one], because there are wonderful big companies that come into areas like this and they add to the workforce and they add to community development and it's a positive," Johnson said. "But, for every positive there is sometimes a negative, as well."
OCEDC may offer support and consultations for people who lose their jobs at Foster and Smith, but the agency has not reached out to Petco yet, instead waiting to see if the company has its own transition team in place.
Johnson said she's trying to stay positive and focus on keeping the pharmacists who are losing their positions in local communities. At the time of Newswatch 12's interview with Johnson late Thursday afternoon, Petco had not released details of numbers or dates.
"There's no way to avoid saying that it is scary," Johnson said. "They're creating their own trend at this point, from what we're seeing. I would recommend that we use our community partners [like Nicolet College and Grow North.]"
Petco noted in its emailed update the company has more than 40 open positions in Rhinelander and plans to expand its Call Center and Live Aquaria operations, which will likely lead to more openings.
Johnson says there are many job openings in Oneida and Vilas counties and that filling those jobs has been slow going.
Newswatch 12 went to the Foster and Smith campus Thursday afternoon, but a reporter was told "no comment" by a handful of workers. Front office staff referred all questions to Petco corporate.
Petco employs about 400 full and part-time workers in Rhinelander.
The One for the Heroes lunch at Rhinelander GM-Toyota Saturday, gave people the chance to rub shoulders with first responders while also supporting their agencies.
Fire fighters, police officers and other first responders were treated to a brat or hot dog lunch while community members were able to make a donation for that meal. The money raised will go back to the departments that attended.
Those agencies gave tours of emergency vehicles and demonstrated equipment like drones and diving gear. 97.3 WHDG, a host of the event, attended the lunch with its Hodag Hot Wheel. There was also a bounce house for children who attended.
At 2 p.m. Saturday, event organizers believe they had raised more than $200 dollars.
STEVENS POINT - Emergency calls for help with "poison gas" brought police, firefighters, and paramedics out to a homeless shelter in Stevens Point early Sunday morning. Crews quickly determined there was no danger.
According to our partners at the Point/Plover Metro Wire, police were called to the Salvation Army Hope Center on Briggs Street -- just west of UW-Stevens Point -- around 6:20 a.m. People at the shelter were already evacuating the building.
MADISON - More Wisconsin grocers are asking municipalities for liquor license extensions so they can take alcohol purchased online out to customers' vehicles.
Wisconsin Public Radio reports that Walmart and Pick 'n Save first started offering curbside pickup of beer, wine and spirits in the Milwaukee and Fox Valley areas in 2017. Other stores quickly followed, but the practice has been met with criticism that it could allow minors to buy alcohol or make liquor access easier in a state that's known to overindulge.
Neenah Alderwoman Marge Bates says curbside pickup could worsen binge drinking in the Fox Valley. The city has been asked to amend retail liquor licenses to allow for curbside pickup of alcohol, though it hasn't happened yet.
Wisconsin Grocers Association President Brandon Scholz predicts online grocery sales will grow rapidly.
MADISON - Wisconsin's Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says he doesn't know whether he will seek a third term, but if it was up to his wife he would retire.
Johnson spoke with reporters Saturday during a break in the Wisconsin Republican Party convention. Johnson promised in the 2016 election that it would be his last, but after Republican Gov. Scott Walker lost in 2018 Johnson has backed off the pledge.
Johnson says he's not ruling out anything in 2022, including a run for governor. But Johnson says his focus now is on the 2020 presidential race. Johnson is the only Republican in statewide office in Wisconsin.
Walker has also talked about running again in 2022. As for the possibility they would both be running for office that year, Johnson says "anything's possible."
MADISON - Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says he doesn't support banning abortions as early as six or eight weeks into a pregnancy, and would prefer that states have the power to determine whether abortion should be legal.
Johnson commented on abortion during a news conference with reporters during the Wisconsin Republican convention on Saturday.
Johnson says he supports a national law banning abortions after 21 weeks. Wisconsin has a 20-week ban. Johnson says he would also prefer that states get to decide whether abortion should be legal, rather than relying on the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized it.
Conservatives have been pushing strict anti-abortion state laws in Alabama, Missouri and elsewhere to force the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade.
RHINELANDER - A flight over the Northwoods brings views of lakes, tree canopies, and small communities. The list of people who have traveled across the Northwoods skies is short, but you could in as little as six months. The Rhinelander Flying Service offers classes to aspiring pilots from all over the Northwoods.
Valerie Dalka is just a few weeks away from being able to fly a plane solo. She says flying is the easy part, landing is where she needs some work.
"Right when you're landing you have to do this thing called a flare and you have to pull back really hard on the controls," said Dalka. "And it's really hard to just continue pulling back that far."
She's been taking lessons at the Rhinelander Flying Service for years.
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