Not exactly good news for St. Thomas

Despite claims from company president Julie Tanguay last week in the Times-Journal, the merger of L.E. Walker Transport with MacKinnon Transport of Guelph, Ont., is not good news for the city. In fact it means the loss of some jobs and the shutting down of the St. Thomas terminal, likely by the end of the year. Here is the updated story with MacKinnon president Evan MacKinnon from the T-J.

St. Thomas-based Walker Group, which includes well-known L.E Walker Transport Ltd., will close despite reports last week that the facility would remain in town after the 60-year-old company was acquired by MacKinnon Transport of Guelph, Ont.
But until the company sells the facility in St. Thomas, local drivers will be able to use the drop yard at the South Edgeware Road site, says the company’s president.
Friday, the Guelph Mercury reported that MacKinnon’s acquisition of Walker Group — which includes L.E. Walker and Mid America Freight Systems — means the St. Thomas site would close, bringing 120 jobs to Guelph.
President and CEO Evan MacKinnon confirmed that statement.
“The company will be relocated to our facility in Guelph and the terminal will be closed.”
In an interview last week, Julie Tanguay, Walker Group president and soon-to-be executive vice-president of sales for MacKinnon said there wouldn’t be any job losses.
“Right now it’s going to be business as usual (at the St. Thomas facility). We’ll continue operating out of this facility servicing our customers.”
MacKinnon said it’s true that it will be business as usual for now — he expects the company to be relocated before the end of 2009, meaning local office facilities will be shuttered.
Of the 140 or so employees at Walker, all 100 drivers have already been offered jobs while they’re hoping to hire 20 mechanics, dispatchers and other staff at the company’s headquarters in Guelph.
“We’re remaining optimistic that we can fill those roles with people from St. Thomas.”
As for drivers, MacKinnon noted they’ll be establishing a drop yard in the London area, but since the St. Thomas facility is a fair distance away from Highway 401, it may not be used for this role. When MacKinnon officially assumes ownership of the South Edgeware Road site, the plan is to sell it.
“It will be available until we are able to sell it. So if it takes nine months or a year to sell it, because of the current real estate economy, we’re not going to own it and rent one in London at the same time,” he said. “If it happens that we end up retaining that facility for some period of time, we would certainly utilize it….There are a lot of local drivers that work in the London area.”
When all is said and done, MacKinnon Transport will employ 420 people and operate 340 trucks.

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