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.