|By Sarah Plummer, The Register-Herald,
Beckley, W.Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 15, 2012--WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS -- Due to a $13 million loss during the winter season in 2011, The Greenbrier has laid off around 100 of the resort's 1,850 employees in what owner Jim Justice hopes is a temporary, seasonal cutback.
Last year between January and April, the resort lost $13 million, a hole the resort did not bounce back from during the rest of the year, he said.
"That is an enormous hole. We almost made it up, but not quite. It was too big a hole to dig out of," Justice explained. "When you look out the window of your house and it is 10 degrees and snowing and there are 10 guests at The Greenbrier and 1,850 employees, it just doesn't work from a business standpoint."
Justice said he met with all employees and told them about the need for lay-offs before announcing them Friday.
"All those who work at The Greenbrier put a lot of confidence in me to run this business and to sustain its longevity," he said. "In any business, if you don't run the business properly and it becomes nonprofitable, it will end up in a mess. It is my job to see that The Greenbrier does not end up in the mess that it was once in."
Since purchasing the national historic landmark from CSX Transportation in 2009 for $20.1 million, Justice has been using his own money to revitalize the resort.
Justice said the resort has exceeded many people's expectations in its performance, including hosting the PGA tour, but most of The Greenbrier amenities are seasonal.
Justice expects the forthcoming addition of the $250 million Greenbrier Medical Institute, featuring a sports medicine and rehabilitation center and cosmetic surgery center, will be one draw during winter months, helping to offset the first-quarter expenses.
He also hopes The Greenbrier will host more winter conference events to help fill the hotel.
"People have asked me how I feel about laying off so many people -- I feel terrible about it. Even laying off one person is terrible. Hopefully, when we get through this first quarter, we can take off a lesser period next year -- maybe 30 days. Then maybe the following year it will be worked out so there won't be dead time at all," he said.
Justice said the 100 employees who have been laid-off will retain their insurance and, although there is no guarantee, he is hopeful everyone will be brought back in April.
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