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Fri, Sep 14, 2001 - Page 19 News List

Business Focus: Corporate US goes back to work

The tentacles of carnage from Tuesday's assault have extended into the business world, starting with disruption to transportation schedules, and the cancellation of various conferences

By Claudia H. Deutsch  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

On the day after hijackers commandeered commercial jetliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, senior managers and executives grappled with trying to restore at least a semblance of business as usual. FedEx, which is based in Memphis, Tennessee, said many of its deliveries could be two days late because its fleet of 660 aircraft is grounded by a nationwide ban on air travel.


Across corporate America on Wednesday, senior managers and executives grappled with trying to restore at least a semblance of business as usual -- even as though they knew that, emotionally at least, it was anything but.

Executives, many of them stranded in cities hundreds of miles from their usual bases, set up command posts in hotels and in offices borrowed from clients and customers, as they simultaneously tried to run their companies and figure out how to get home.

In one case of dislocation, executives of Bowne, a Wall Street financial printer, who were holding their annual sales management meeting in Phoenix on Tuesday, remained there, working from hotel rooms by phone, e-mail and the corporate Web site. For those intent on returning to New York, Bowne chartered a bus. The rest hope to book commercial airline flights when that becomes possible.

"Our expectation is that senior management will be back by Friday," said Robert J. Baker, president of Bowne of New York, speaking by phone from Phoenix. The company's offices in lower Manhattan were not damaged on Tuesday, but are in the part of the city generally closed to all but emergency workers.

Operations hampered

Most companies operating outside of lower Manhattan, whether elsewhere in New York City, or around the country, were open on Wednesday, although many made clear to employees that they could stay home if they needed to. Even for businesses that were open, standard operations were often hampered by disruptions in various parts of the transportation system.

All three of the Detroit automakers closed all their factories on Tuesday. General Motors and Ford had difficulties reopening a few of them because of interruptions of parts deliveries. The GM truck plant in Oshawa, Ontario, could not go back to operating until Wednesday afternoon because of parts shortages. Two Ford plants remained closed: one that makes Lincolns and Thunderbirds in the Detroit suburb of Wixom, and another that makes Winstar minivans in Oakville, Ontario.

Federal Express said many deliveries for now could be at least two days late, with its fleet of 660 aircraft in North America out of action.

"We are achieving our goal of keeping the freight moving, though it's not as rapid as if our air operations were intact," said Jeff Bunn, a FedEx spokesman, adding that the company was expanding its trucking operations. FedEx said the company could not make deliveries outside the US yet, and that it had suspended its money-back guarantee on same-day service.

United Parcel Service said that most of its delivery operations were continuing on schedule, because more than 10 million of its packages each day are sent by ground, compared with about two million by air. But, UPS was only making about 25 percent of its deliveries in Manhattan on Wednesday, mostly to residences, and had suspended pickups there.

"Where it would make sense, such as any shipment destined for delivery within a four-hour drive, we could try to make a delivery by truck," said Bob Godlewski, a spokesman for UPS in its Atlanta headquarters. "But a Manhattan-to-LA next-day air shipment is probably sitting in Manhattan right now."

Truck and rail traffic fared better, with deliveries slow but generally made. The CSX Corp, the big railroad based in Richmond, Virginia, said that 57 of its 1,600 freight trains were halted on Tuesday, but that normal operations resumed on Wednesday morning. Congestion is "quickly working its way out," said Kathy Burns, a spokeswoman for CSX.

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