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Associated Press, Published May 05 2009

AmEx closing Dickinson travel center

DICKINSON, N.D. - A spokesman for American Express Business Travel says it was a tough message.

Employees at the company's call center in Dickinson were told Monday the center is closing immediately, cutting about 100 jobs, due to a lack of work.

Spokesman Stephen Feeley said employees will remain on the payroll for 60 days before severance packages take effect. The severance packages are determined by pay scale and years of service.

A small core group of workers will remain in the office to help with the transition over the next week, Feeley said.

Feeley, who was in Dickinson for the announcement, said the decision to close the office was business related and had nothing to do with the performance of the Dickinson office, which American Express purchased from Rosenbluth International in 2003. The closing comes about three months after the closing of the company's Linton office, also acquired from Rosenbluth.

"I think it was something people understood. It was a tough message to deliver. They understood it wasn't them," Feeley said Tuesday.

Clients are not spending and that is reflected in travel budgets, he said.

"What that translates to is that there's just not the work to do that we once had," he said.

The Dickinson area has more than 600 job openings, said Gaylon Baker, executive vice president of Stark Development Corp.

"Of course, not all those will suit those people and not all those will suit a given person," Baker said. "I feel very bad for those people who may have lost their jobs for the time being."

Dickinson Mayor Dennis Johnson said the closing will hurt the entire community, but he believes it will bounce back.

"Right now, our feelings of concern have to be with the people that have lost their jobs today," the mayor said. "I think in the long term, the community will be just fine."

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