Heartland America’s online catalog, advertising “Brand name products at discount prices,” has it all: Binoculars, sneakers, tablet computers, umbrellas.

But there’s one thing South Dakotans won’t get any longer from the Minnesota-based company: jobs.

The company is shutting the doors at its Custer and Rapid City call centers, according to various sources, leaving dozens of area residents looking for work.

“The company didn't notify that they had any intentions," Custer Mayor Gary Lipp said Thursday. “Everybody was asking the city, ‘Well why didn't you do something about it?’"

“What do we do now? They already made their decisions," he said. "There was no negotiations."

The Custer call center employed between 30 and 40 employees, according to various estimates. For Custer, a couple dozen year-round jobs makes a difference.

Summers, fueled by warm weather and tourist crowds, bring an influx of seasonal work. In July 2012, Custer County boasted a little over 3,300 jobs, according to state numbers. In January 2013, the county had about 2,100 jobs.

Heartland America’s Rapid City office referred questions to the company’s headquarters in Chaska, Minn., where requests for comment were not returned.

Heartland America has been active in Chaska since 1990, according to Minnesota state records. According to the company’s website, Heartland America opened in 1985.

The number of jobs to be lost in Rapid City is unclear. But Ben Snow, president of the Rapid City Economic Development Partnership, said those losses might not have a serious impact.

“I think you see expansion in some of the customer service centers and contraction in others," Snow said Thursday. In the nearly four years since he arrived in town, Rapid City has seen an increase in customer service jobs, he added.

While community leaders were surprised to hear of the closings, Alexandra Burnham learned in mid-February, when Heartland America told her she would be laid off from her job in the Custer call center.

“I guess the whole plan is to go electronic, but we do have to keep the (Minnesota) call center open because it is practically impossible to go fully electronic, especially if some people have a question on an item," Burnham, 18, said. “There's still going to be customer service.”

Burnham confirmed that the Custer branch’s last day is today and said the Rapid City branch is closing April 15. Some of the Custer employees will able to work in Rapid City call center until that office closes, she said.

Burnham has landed another job, working customer service for Regional Health. But she’ll work one last hour today, she said, taking sales orders, answering questions about rebate programs, dealing with customer complaints. All which to her has been a learning experience.

"It's not bad; it was a good place to work," Burnham said.

But for Lipp, Custer’s mayor, losing the call center means losing an anchor for the people who live year-round in the town.

“Everybody that's in there is important to the survival of the community, because they're here for 12 months,” he said. “If we lose them, they're hard to replace."

(10) comments


There is a lot of pressure in the catalog business. Highly competitive. Strategically, it's interesting to consider niche focus catalog businesses like DansComp.com vs those with less focus. I feel for the residents of Custer. It makes the tourism season this year even more important, I suppose. Let's do all we can to make sure the environment continues to attract those tourism dollars.


That's great that you understand the point and noticed, at this juncture, it is "one of the clearest cost increases" companies face when the law takes full effect."

The charge was found to be buried in a recent regulation.

By extension, the costs of ObamaCare will be passed onto the employees somehow; whether through part-time employment, limiting raises, businesses downsizing, etc.


Horse pucky Dek. Why do I keep hearing this from you ? Costs of doing business shouldn't be passed to the employees are you daft? If the cost of beef goes up does my hamburger cost less?? No ! It goes up with inflation as our wages should go up with inflation. Except simpleminded folks such as yourself think that employees don’t deserve any raises . You think childishly that there never is any increase in the cost of goods , you believe selfishly that increased profits should only be enjoyed by the owner! Do you understand??


LOL on the horse pucky, simple-mindedness, how you believe I think, and how I think employees don't deserve wage increases.

Wages are not keeping up with the increase in inflation... In part, this is due to economic uncertainly on the business side and economic policies, including ObamaCare, from the government side.

If a company has to increase the amount it pays its workers through healthcare costs, the additional expense will not be absorbed by the company. The cost will be passed on to customers in the form of higher prices or the employees through a lack of wage increases or smaller wage increases.

You can certainly quit putting words into my mouth as I never wrote employees don’t deserve wage increases or that increased profits should only be enjoyed by the owner.


Just asking did Obama care cause this ?


I don't have any info on if this is the case for Heartland America, but yesterday, I read a piece which explained, "Employers are bracing for a little-noticed fee in the federal health-care law that will charge them $63 for each person they insure next year, one of the clearest cost increases companies face when the law takes full effect."


I see your point Dek, $0.03 / hour extra for each employee is a deal breaker and will cause many businesses to go belly up.


Yeah. Holy Cow. $63.00 dollars a year per employee. If you treat your employees like dirt, it might not be worth it. Especially for something as frivolous as healthcare. What will the socialists force on us next? Call me sarcastic.


Depending on the amount of employees a business utilizes, the $63.00 per employee is a large amount.

Boeing estimates the fee will apply to about 405,000 workers and dependents it insures, costing the Chicago-based plane maker an estimated $25 million in 2014. The company spends $2.5 billion annually on health and insurance-related benefits.

The UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, which covers 806,000 retirees of General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and their dependents, has asked HHS to exempt all its beneficiaries from the levy.

ObamaCare regulations are changing, and as noted, it is one of the clearest cost increases at this point in time.

You asked, "What will the socialists force on us next?"

As far as I'm aware, never in America has a law be enacted forcing citizens to purchase a product or else be penalized for not purchasing said product.

Last month, according to the Household Survey, full-time employment declined and there was an increase in part-time employment.

As the year progresses, we shall find out if part-time employment is attributed to ObamaCare or if the part-time increase in February's employment was an anomaly.


No it wasn't the ACA that caused this, it looks like they are just going automated. This has probably been 5 years in the works, automation at that level takes alot of infrastructure.

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