ROCKPORT, Maine — Reduced real estate advertising revenue and the worsening national economy have caused layoffs and a reorganization of the 55-year-old Down East magazine and publishing company — despite the strongest circulation numbers in its history, according to its president.
Bob Fernald, president of Down East Enterprise Inc., said Friday that seven people have been laid off from the company.
“Every single department was affected, one way or another,” Fernald said. “These were all good people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.”
The company still has 48 full-time employees and one half-time at last count, he said, working to publish the books and the 105,000-circulation magazine.
Most of those people work at Down East’s imposing Rockport headquarters off Route 1, where a sign affixed to the door Friday afternoon said the offices were closed due to a staff meeting.
“We had a meeting to wrap up exactly what happened,” Fernald said.
Fernald said the national economic outlook has shifted for the worse since the beginning of February, when he was more upbeat about the company’s short-term future. At that time, Down East Enterprise had just sold its interest in Performance Media, a media company that specializes in stock car racing and publishes Speedway Illustrated magazine.
“The news of the last month just hasn’t been good all around,” Fernald said. “We were anticipating that the recession was going to be over by the summer. … Now, there’s really no end in sight with the economy.”
While Fernald said that selling Performance Media was still “the right decision” for Down East, the presence of employees who had been working primarily with the stock car racing magazine added to the company’s other economic troubles.
“Real estate advertising has been difficult. For a good long time, we’ve been able to replace it with other forms of advertising. Now, things are generally weaker,” he said.
Down East’s reorganization efforts will affect its publishing side, too. Down East Books, which was named 2008 Publisher of the Year by the New England Independent Booksellers Association, will print reduced runs of its books.
“We’re being more cautious,” Fernald said. “If a book proves to be popular, we’ll go back to reprint more quickly.”
Fernald said the company has successfully weathered other tough times over its half-century-long history.
“We’ve been through other recessions and come through fine. I’ll expect the same this time,” he said.