Tuesday, July 03, 2001

Holiday makes big impact on some companies

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Did the expressway seem strangely free-flowing on the drive to the office this morning?

        While July in America isn't like August in France, where the whole country seems to be closed, it's the closest thing. July is the most popular month for Americans to go on vacation, according to the Travel Industry Association of America.

        And when you toss a midweek July Fourth holiday into the equation, you can create all kinds of scheduling challenges for businesses.

  July is the most popular month for vacations, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. Here's how vacation travel by adults broke down by month in 1999, the most recent year data are available. (Note: Numbers add up to more than 100 because of rounding.)
  January — 6 percent
 February — 6 percent
 March — 7 percent
 April — 8 percent
 May — 9 percent
 June — 10 percent
 July — 12 percent
 August — 10 percent
 September — 8 percent
 October — 7 percent
 November — 9 percent
 December — 9 percent
        “Half the world is on vacation this week,” said Tony Bassano, who closed his Bassano's Restaurant at 309 Vine St. downtown all week because it made no sense to stay open.

        “That's a big impact on a restaurant that counts on customers from office buildings downtown,” said Mr. Bassano, who kept open his three other restaurants in Madeira, Symmes Township and Milford.

        At least one major regional employer isn't concerned that the July Fourth holiday comes midweek because it closes its Sharonville plant for two weeks every July.

        Ford Motor Co. has to do routine maintenance and perform retooling at the plant, which employs 2,600 hourly and 300 salaried workers, said Ed Miller, spokesman for Ford.

        “Our shutdowns almost always carry over the Fourth of July holiday and that's because it's summer and people want to take vacations,” he said.

        “Our plants are so big that it's more economical to just shut them all down for two weeks solid in July rather than have to deal with partial work forces taking vacations.”

        Whiel the holiday matters little at Ford, it's a problem for JTM Food Group.

        The Fourth of July holiday comes at a time when the Harrison company is in its busiest season with equipment that cranks out five hoagie buns per second and 320 quarter-pounders per minute.

        And just when everyone else is loading up on holiday meats for the barbecue, JTM gives its 250-person work force a day off.

        “Some will work late Tuesday night and others will come in for a partial day late Wednesday,” said Jack T. Maas Jr., vice president of sales.

        “The biggest challenge for us is breaking the production cycle. You have to make sure all the steps are covered. When you shut down midweek, somebody has to be prepared for the startup because you know that eventually Thursday is going to come.”

        What's more, production has to begin for school-system customers who are already beginning to order for late August.

        “It's the busiest six weeks for us,” he said.

        A midweek July Fourth holiday can also be a challenge for international travelers. Fifth Third Bank keeps its branch open at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport every day all year.

        The branch in Concourse B has an on-site foreign currency exchange from 55 nations, with 50 more currencies available for travelers who give the bank a 24-hour notice.

        “We were nonstop on Memorial Day,” said Robbie Jennings, vice president corporate communications for Fifth Third Bank.

        Besides travelers, another reason to keep the branch open on the holiday is the 10,000 people who work at the airport, she said. The company, like most banks, also projects heavier-than-usual traffic on the day before the holiday.

        “We increase staff on the preceding business day,” she said.

        Beyond scheduling problems, midweek holidays also might be a bit of a workplace distraction.

        Peter Bycio, chairman of the management and entrepreneurship department in the Williams College of Business at Xavier University, wondered whether hard work disappears, at least marginally, when there are such holidays.

        “I think it is fair to say that midweek holidays probably result in a greater loss of productivity than holidays tied to a weekend,” he said.

        “Of course, if you're working on assembly line and you're supposed to make a certain number widgets per day, even if don't feel like putting in (a) full week, you put in a full week.”


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