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White Lodging laying off 100 at corporate headquarters in Merrillville because of COVID-19
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White Lodging laying off 100 at corporate headquarters in Merrillville because of COVID-19

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White Lodging laying off 100 at corporate headquarters in Merrillville because of COVID-19

White Lodging headquarters in Merrillville.

MERRILLVILLE — White Lodging, a Merrillville-based hospitality company that builds and operates hotels all over the country, is laying off 100 workers at its corporate headquarters in Merrillville.

The company told the Indiana Department of Workforce Development in a Workers Adjustment Retraining Notice, or WARN, that the layoffs would be permanent.

"Due to unforeseeable, dramatic and unprecedented downturn in business and occupancy arising from the coronavirus public health crisis, there will a permanent reduction in force at our corporate headquarters located at 701 E. 83rd Ave., Merrillville," Chief Human Resources Officer Michael Fischer wrote in a letter to the state. "All affected employees have been notified of their separation dates and that their separation from employment will be permanent. Those employees are expected to be separated from employment beginning on May 29, 2020."

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The layoffs are far-reaching and include professionals in sales, marketing, human resources, bookkeeping, business intelligence and project management. The cuts include executive positions like chief information officer and chief operating officer–suburban select, according to the WARN letter.

The hotel industry has been hammered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home orders, with record-low occupancy rates and skeleton crews at most hotels and motels. The American Hotel and Lodging Association estimates the impact of the COVID-19 crisis has been nine times worse than what the hospitality industry faced after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, that occupancy will not return to normal until 2021 and the revenue will not be restored to pre-crisis levels until 2022.

White Lodging develops and runs hotels including Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Doubletree and Embassy Suites. Its extensive portfolio includes the Purdue Union Club Hotel and the award-winning luxury Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming. The company is owned by Bruce White, the son of the late billionaire hotel and billboard magnate Dean White.

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The company halted plans to develop the former site of the Star Plaza Theatre, the Radisson at Star Plaza hotel and the Twin Towers at U.S. 30 and Interstate 65 in Merrillville late last year. It had been pursuing a $356 million redevelopment project called The Farm at Crossroad Commons that would have included a meeting and event center, four hotels, an office building, a below-grade parking garage, townhouses, condos, two restaurants, a craft brewery and distillery, an art gallery, a visitors center, a greenhouse and a 30,000-square-foot horse-riding arena, but backed off after failing to get the government incentives it sought. It's now open to selling the former Star Plaza site, which is widely considered to be one of the most prime commercial real estate locations in Northwest Indiana.

White Lodging last had a mass layoff, of 50 workers, at its Merrillville headquarters in 2017, when it sold off 82 hotel management contracts.

The career website Zippia estimates White Lodging brings in $750 million in annual revenue and has nearly 7,000 employees nationwide.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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