By the end of October Wal-Mart said it will close an administrative claims office in Bartlesville, Okla., and relocate the jobs to its central claims office in Rogers. The retailer said bringing the operations together will allow for more efficient operations and to better serve customers.
“Right now our focus is on helping our associates find their next job, whether it be with Wal-Mart or somewhere else. We have several positions that will be open in the Rogers office and we will be talking with all the associates in the Bartlesville office to determine their interest in transferring,” said Anne Hathaway, corporate spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Stores.
She said there will be opportunities to transfer into the Bartlesville distribution center where 600 people work as well a supercenter in town with 300 employees. There are also Sam’s Clubs and other locations in the area where transfers may be possible. Lastly, she said the retailer is hosting a career fair in early October for the displaced workers who do not wish to transfer.
This effort to streamline back office operations has been ongoing for the past two years under Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran. One year ago, the retailer announced plans to centralize some invoicing and store accounting roles which eliminated about 7,000 jobs around the country which were consolidated into one of its central operations. The cash handling and invoicing was transferred into central operations in North Carolina. Rogers is the centralized location which handles claims.
The impact of these jobs to Northwest Arkansas may be light considering the more than 1,000 jobs Wal-Mart purged from its corporate payrolls already this year. That said, the move makes sense for Wal-Mart, according to Mervin Jebaraj, interim director of the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Arkansas.
“In terms of the corporate headquarter/back-office employment Wal-Mart and this region has about six times the number of the national average and I view this process as a way Wal-Mart can streamline and look for more efficiencies and allow for cross functionally and better overall collaboration,” Jebaraj told Talk Business & Politics.
He said perhaps in the past Wal-Mart had to open offices outside Northwest Arkansas to take advantage of higher labor pools and specific skill sets that might not have been readily available years ago across Benton County. That was especially true on the technology side, but that is changing as the region continues to grow a diversified labor pool, Jebaraj said.