Blizzard blitzes local businesses

Snowstorms can be a bane or boom to local firms

Technology may help keep workers connected while they're away from the office during the blizzard, but that may not stem any losses.

A lot of companies sent workers home early on Tuesday, and many workers may not arrive in the office at all on Wednesday, resulting in lost revenues. Productivity also has been reduced this week already with many workers checking the Internet for weather updates or talking to colleagues about it, said Mary Lynn Fayoumi, president and CEO of The Management Association of Illinois in Downers Grove.

“Everything from medical appointments to nail appointments are being canceled or rescheduled,” said Fayoumi. “And a lot of other products and services won't be purchased this week due to the weather.”

Fayoumi said in her more than 20 years with the association, this likely will be just the third time they will close their doors due to weather.

While retailers like hardware and grocery stores will sell a lot of necessities, other businesses will suffer the loss of an unknown amount of revenue. Couple the effects of the weather and the tough economy, and whipsawed business owners and corporate executives will undoubtedly take some hits.

Several companies in the suburbs have emergency weather plans in place, including Motorola Solutions. It's allowing workers to use their technology and work from home. Its campuses in Schaumburg and Arlington Heights remained open on Tuesday and some Wednesday was already canceled.

“We do have manufacturing lines on both campuses,” said Motorola Solutions spokeswoman Tama McWhinney.

Motorola Solutions, a global provider of communication products and services for enterprise and government customers, said its IT systems have the capacity to simultaneously manage 20,000 users in North America.

“On Wednesday, we have approximately 4,000 workers using our remote access systems, which represents the vast majority of the work force in northern Illinois,” McWhinney said.

Libertyville-based Motorola Mobility closed its Libertyville campus and Chicago office on Wednesday with plans to reopen them on Thursday, said spokeswoman Juli Burda.

“Employees that are able to work from home will be encouraged to do so,” Burda said.

Tellabs Inc., a global network equipment maker, said if it decides to close its Naperville headquarters, due to lack of electricity or access to surrounding roads, employees will be notified by e-mail, said spokesman George Stenitzer.

“We're monitoring the weather to make the right decision and take care of our employees and customers,” Stenitzer said.

Still, with the mobile Internet, many Tellabs workers can work remotely. “Most of us have laptops, iPads, BlackBerries and other devices that keep us in touch with customers and with each other,” Stenitzer said. “Our customer services team and our IT department are equipped to work from home as needed, and some are working from home (Tuesday). But we can't estimate a percentage, since each work group is making an independent decision on whether its employees can work from home.”

Verizon Wireless, which has its Midwest headquarters in Schaumburg, put its emergency plan in place, said spokeswoman Carolyn Schamberger.

She wasn't worried about the possibility of closing on Wednesday.

“We're a wireless technology company. We have a very mobile work force on a normal day,” said Schamberger.

Also, banks will evaluate the intensity of the weather, since their emergency closing plans require notice or permission under the Illinois Banking Emergencies Act. Banks, including Naperville-based First Community Bank, will follow the rules, said President J. Patrick Benton.

“We expect to be open for business on Wednesday, but I would encourage clients to use an ATM or one of our branch offices if they have an emergency need,” Benton said. “Not all of our employees may be able to get to the bank on Wednesday. Safety is paramount, in any decision, by employees or clients to travel in adverse weather.”

The blizzard likely won't affect its business, Benton said.

“Most banking decisions can be deferred for a day if a client is unable to get to the bank,” Benton said.

Technology doesn't' really apply to grocery stores, like Sunset Foods when serving consumers, said Thaddeus J. Tazioli, vice president of marketing at Highland Park-based Sunset Foods, which has a store in Long Grove and elsewhere.

“Typically, we are very busy leading up to the storm and then very quiet during,” said

Tazioli. “We staff up for the rush and then adjust as appropriate. Our primary concern is keeping our parking lots and shipping areas clear of snow.”

Sunset Foods expect to remain open on Wednesday, he said.

“I think Wednesday will be the difficult day,” Tazioli said. “As weather's impact is hard to predict, we will deal with issues as they arise, but I'm not expecting anything that we can't handle. We've been doing this a long time.”

Deerfield-based Walgreen Co., which has several Walgreens retail stores and pharmacies throughout the suburbs, expects to keep those stores open, a spokesman said.

Naperville-based Nicor Gas also will remain open 24/7 because customers who receive natural gas in their homes for heating or cooking may be affected by the storm. Administrative workers have the technology to work at home.

“We have augmented our crews and are prepared for emergencies, so we have to remain open,” said Nicor spokeswoman Annette Martinez.