Kable News relocation to cost Ogle County hundreds of jobs

Alex Gary

The New York-based parent company of Kable News Co. will move the vast majority of the work done in Mount Morris to Florida by 2010.

The announcement by Amrep Corp., made Friday, means Ogle County will lose more than 425 jobs.

Kable is a magazine fulfillment company, processing subscriptions and memberships for a number of magazines, collecting the money and taking orders for back issues. It was started in Mount Morris in 1932 and has since been one of the village’s largest employers.

But today’s announcement is the third blow in two years to the village of 4,100’s once-vibrant publishing industry. Last year, Quebecor World Inc., which has a massive printing plant in Mount Morris with 700 workers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections, and the privately owned Watt Publishing, which was started in Mount Morris in 1917, moved its headquarters and about 70 employees to Rockford.

Patrick Burns, a spokesman for Amrep Corp. in New York, said the company was looking to cut costs by combining its operations in Colorado, Illinois and Florida. The Florida operation had the largest subscription base and number of employees.

Amrep is a $170-million-a-year company that makes about 80 percent of its revenue in magazine services and distribution and 20 percent from developing land in the southwest. Like most companies with any kind of ties to real estate, its earnings have tumbled with the market. In September, the company reported its net earnings were down 99 percent in its first fiscal quarter, falling to just $99,000 out of revenues of $35.6 million.

Burns said the move will be done in phases and workers at its Colorado and Mount Morris operations would have a chance to apply for jobs in Florida. It remains to be seen how many Mount Morris residents will apply, considering the vast differences in living expenses, lifestyle and weather between Illinois and Florida.

The announcement wasn’t a complete shock to Mount Morris workers. Newspapers near Palm Coast, Fla., reported in the past month that Palm Coast Data, the company that will absorb the Colorado and Illinois operations, was talking with Florida officials about incentives to expand its operations there.

Mount Morris village President Greg Unger, however, was caught off-guard. He said the company never contacted him to tell him what they were considering.

“We were getting calls from the workers because they were wondering what was going on,” Unger said.

Alex Gary can be reached or at (815) 987-1339.