The city of Moline will be on the search for another big box retailer for John Deere Road after news broke Thursday that the Moline Sam's Club is among dozens of stores being closed nationwide.
Moline Mayor Stephanie Acri said the city received notice early Thursday that the store will close Jan. 26.
A corporate executive at Walmart, the parent of Sam's Club, "wouldn't even hint about why Moline was being closed," she said.
In the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company's WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) notice with the state of Illinois, it indicated it will lay off 155 employees from the store at 6600 44th Ave. Hourly employees will be terminated effective March 16, while management employees will be terminated April 13. Nationwide, it will close 63 stores and convert 10 to ecommerce distribution centers.
"It's disappointing and our hearts go out to the employees," Acri said. "This is not a reflection on Moline. They're doing it nationwide. Something is going on with the business that is beyond our influence."
An employee answering the telephone at the Moline store said it was closed Thursday, but will re-open to the public Friday at 10 a.m.
On Twitter, Sam's Club responded to inquiries about the nationwide closings by saying "After a thorough review of our existing portfolio, we've decided to close a series of clubs and better align our locations with our strategy."
The news came on the same day that Walmart reported it would raise its starting wage to $11 an hour effective Feb. 17, including at Sam's Club stores.
According to Acri, the company indicated that the store's employees learned of the closing at a meeting early Thursday. She said the company offered assurances it was "was working aggressively" to relocate many of the employees to other locations.
The Moline store has a sister store in Davenport. In addition, WalMart has stores in Moline, Silvis and Davenport.
All of the affected stores were removed from the store locator on the Sam's Club website, including Moline.
According to a list on the website for the publication Business Insider, seven Illinois stores are among the closings, including Batavia, Matteson, Moline, Naperville, Streamwood, Wheeling and Romeoville. There were no Iowa stores reported.
While the closure was "certainly disappointing," Mayor Acri said, "These things happen. It doesn't change my positive outlook for that area. Corporations do what's in the best interest of their corporations."
In her discussion with the corporate executive, Acri said she reminded him of the expansion of John Deere Road, which is slated to end in 2019. "I did ask him, if they would consider re-opening, but he would not commit to that."
Sam's Club opened the 136,000-square-foot store in Moline in August 2014. At the time, it was a new prototype for the retailer.
"It's a good location to have an empty facility because once the John Deere Road construction is completed, it will become a very attractive retail location," Acri said.
In an e-mail, Ray Forsythe, Moline's planning and development director said he contacted the city's consultant, Retail Strategies, on Thursday in hopes of finding out the reason behind the closings. He added that the firm will assist the city in finding a reuse for the store.
Displaced workers from the Moline store will be able to receive assistance from the American Job Center, Rock Island, the center's executive director Mark Lohman said. The center, located at 500 42nd St., provides assistance with unemployment insurance benefits, job training, job seeker services and more.
According to Lohman, his staff also was notified early Thursday of the closure. "This event is large enough that various partners in the American Job Center will try to provide direct assistance."
In many cases, he said the center will provide services to displaced workers at their place of employment. "Sometimes if the closing is immediate, there's not time to talk to the employees or get information to them before they are effected."
For more information, employees may walk in, without an appointment, to the center or contact it at 309-788-7587.