Give ADP failing marks on Clinton shutdown disclosure

T.J. McSparrin at the Clinton Chamber had a to do-list last Thursday morning that included a call to Automatic Data Processing, better known as ADP. Time to pitch the company on renewing its Chamber membership.

You may want to scratch that from your list, I told her. ADP would soon be on a midnight train to Georgia — and leaving behind 80 to 100 people who depended on the human resource services provider for paychecks.

The news saddened her and we told each other we hoped it was not true.

The $10-billion ADP came to Clinton with huge ambitions in early 2008. Within five years it would grow to 1,000 workers at South Pointe Business Park, the former WorldCom complex. It grew some early on, taking on an additional floor of around 30,000 square feet before cutting back to a single floor and training room.

To be candid, ADP is hardly making a graceful exit. We’re told employees learned of their job loss via email. And the Clinton community that supported the company?

Its leaders didn’t even get an email heads up.

Contacted last Thursday morning, Clinton economic development chief Jim Powell said he knew nothing of the pending departure. I told him it probably wouldn’t do much good to call the company’s office at South Pointe. The voice mail was full and not accepting messages.

Likewise, ADP’s corporate headquarters in Roseland, N.J., was not offering up any confirmation of its plans for the Clinton operation.

Leave a message and we’ll get back to you, the company voice mail said.

It didn’t. At least not until the first day of the following week, by which time the company’s silence had led to speculation that the recession has hammered the company and forced the consolidation with the Augusta operation.

Later — much later — ADP spokesman Michael Schneider insisted the company is doing “tremendously well” and the decision to move to Georgia resulted from “careful assessments of its operations to ensure we are operating in the most efficient manner.”

Schneider conceded that its absence of transparency left ADP open to speculation on why it had decided to make the break. As a public relations professional, he surely knows the key is to control the message — or at least be upfront about what the company is doing. And to be timely in disseminating the message.

“We’re open and transparent,” he said, expecting evidence to the contrary to be ignored.

He said he had plausible deniability for the dearth of information about the move because no one in his company had informed him that both this newspaper and Jackson’s daily newspaper had been calling his department for confirmation of the Clinton shutdown.

Sounds like what the Road Captain in “Cool Hand Luke” would call a failure to communicate.

But the failure was not something internal to ADP. Its failure rests with not caring enough to be upfront with a community that put the welcome mat out for it.

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