By Tim Leeds
The headquarters of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp.'s Montana division has moved from Havre to Billings, but railroad spokesmen say they do not expect major changes in railroad operations here.
Officials weren't sure how many jobs will be affected by the change, but only management personnel will be moved to other offices within the corporation. The number of positions that will be affected has yet to be determined.
"The Hi-Line operations we do not expect to change as far as present operations," spokesman Gus Melonas said Wednesday. They will continue to have 35 or more freight trains a day and local service for customers, he said.
BNSF announced on Sept. 2 that the company will streamline its infrastructure as it enters a depressed economy, and the railway intends to increase transportation into Mexico, expand Internet business transactions and increase train speeds.
Melonas said the company changed from 23 to 13 operating divisions. "Effective immediately," he said.
The Montana division headquarters is being moved because Billings is more centrally located under the new operations structure, Melonas said.
Any personnel changes in a restructuring such as the one announced would affect management positions, Melonas said, but no decisions have been made about moving personnel. The company can't speculate on personnel movement or the effect on Havre management personnel, but will announce any information when decisions are made, he added.
"We're just plugging names into areas at this point," he said.
"We certainly don't expect the restructure to affect most of the managerial staff," he said. "There will still be managerial positions remaining in Havre."
He emphasized that the railway expects that the Havre operations, with the diesel shop and current train movement, will remain unchanged.
"Havre still remains a significant point in BNSF's network," Melonas said.
The Havre office has seen many increases and decreases in staff over the years, Melonas said. The last major change was a restructuring in 1988, which brought many managerial jobs to Havre, he said. That included his own job as public relations director.
The managerial staff in Havre has decreased significantly since then. Melonas is one of those staff members who has moved. He is now working out of Seattle.
Matt Rose, chief executive officer of BNSF, told employees in Gillette, Wyo., that although the company's revenues have shrunk every year since 1997, mainly because of increasing diesel costs, there is still stability in the railway's type of work.
Rose said about one quarter of his company's revenue comes from the coal industry. He added that the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana, which is near Billings, is a critical location for BNSF.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.