Last night, I attended the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) public hearing in Lakeland along with more than 200 concerned citizens and postal workers, as well as city and county elected officials.Â I have to say, I was very proud of the professional and respectful tone of everyone who attended and offered their comments, questions and concerns during the meeting.
The purpose of the meeting was to share recommendations coming out of a USPS Area Mail Processing (AMP) feasibility study supporting that the Postal Service would save roughly $1.5 million annually by consolidating the Lakeland originating mail processing operations with the Tampa operations center.Â This proposal is one of 17 under consideration throughout the country in an attemptÂ to offset projected USPSÂ losses of $2.8 billion that could escalate to $6 billion if cost-saving measures are not implemented.
What impact will the move of the mail processing operations out of Lakeland have on the businesses and homes in the 338 zip code service area in Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties which account for an average of 284,00 pieces of mail a day?
Of immediate concern, up to 39 Lakeland postal workers will be reassigned to either Tampa or other service facilities.Â Â While the Postal Service reps assured the audience there would be no layoffs, being relocated to other postal facilities within a 150-mile radius will create a great hardship on those affected employees.
From a business perspective, the other major concern is the loss of service and Lakeland identity this move will create.Â The study reported that no disruption or delay in postal service will be experienced if the move takes place.Â However, several postal workers stated that it would be impossible to maintain the level of delivery service currently provided by Lakeland, and questioned the real cost savings and efficiency if mail was trucked to Tampa for processing and then trucked back to Lakeland or to further points in the 338 service area.
I encourage you to visit the USPS Web site to learn further details on the USPS AMP study:Â www.usps.com/all/amp.htm.
After listening to the presentations last night and hearing from members of the audience, a few observations and recommendations to consider………
Lakeland is recognized as the premier distribution center for the southeast, with its strategic location along the I-4 corridor making it ideally positioned to move goods and services to a broad geographic market.Â Â 8.5 million people live within a 100-mile radius of Lakeland and close to 600,000 people live in Polk County alone.
With Lakeland between two major metropolitan areas, wouldn’t it create greater cost and service efficiencies to EXPAND the Lakeland Postal CenterÂ rather than shift the processing service to the west?
I was pleased to hear from the postal service representatives last night that Lakeland is rated one of the best mail processing plants in the country.Â Why wouldn’t that level of service be utilized to its maximum capacity rather than forcing the Tampa facility to increase their overtime labor to handle the additional mail service?
In today’s economic environment, every business in this country is going through the same challenges the U.S. Postal Service faces to identify cost-savings measures to keep their doors open without jeopardizing their most valuable asset, the customers they serve.
In light of the global competition facing the USPS with the surge of on-line communications service, we ask the U.S. Postal Service to weigh the short-term economic and efficiency benefits reported in the study against the long-term impact to their customers, both internal and external,Â and further erosion of their competitive edge in service areas such as Lakeland.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO VOICE YOUR COMMENTS AND CONCERNS ON THIS ISSUE??
I encourage you to contact the U.S. Postal Service to voice your comments, questions and concerns regarding the potential relocation of the Lakeland mail processing center and its impact on your business. Â Correspondence must be received by February 26 to be included in the AMP analysis:
Consumer Affairs Manager
Suncoast District, USPS
6013 Benjamin Rd Ste 201
Tampa, FL 33634-5178
Thanks for taking the time to learn more about this important issue, and let me know if you have any other thoughts or suggestions on how the Chamber can represent Lakeland’s interests as we move forward.