Community response team created to help those affected by Rhinelander business closure

RHINELANDER, Wis (WSAW) -- The city of Rhinelander has developed a plan to help ease the transition of Drs. Foster and Smith closing its doors in March.

Last week, when Petco Animals Supplies, Inc announced it will close its Drs. Foster and Smith campus, it came with nearly 300 job layoff notices.

On Tuesday, the Oneida County Board of Supervisors in partnership with several local businesses, colleges and organizations created a Community Response Team to tackle the unemployment issue the city will face in the Spring.

"I am afraid some of these people will have to leave the community if they can't find a job," said Kathy Groff as she shopped for dog supplies at Drs. Foster and Smith.

According to Mayor Chris Frederickson, there are enough jobs in the city to go around; however, some of the jobs will require additional training. The city hopes the Community Response Team will be able to assist those impacted by finding employment and ensuring they will be qualified to fill vacant positions.

"There might be people that are just waiting to start their own businesses," stated Mayor Frederickson. "Whatever the case might be, this change could jump-start that possibility for them."

Elected officials are asking workers to not make rash decisions too soon until they review all their options. Leaving their job sooner than expected could risk unemployment benefits and other programs the city hopes to offer in the coming weeks.

"We discussed the impact, what the county will do and what we have been doing to minimize and make best of the situation," included Dave Hintz, Chairman of the Oneida County Board. "We contacted Congressmen Sean Duffy and he's agreed to sponsor a job fair. We have contacted the Governor's office and they are helping as well.

The Community Response Team will meet weekly on Tuesdays at City Hall to discuss job and training opportunities for those impacted. Those meetings will be open to the public.

The city of Rhinelander hopes to hold a press conference next week to address any concerns the community may have.