MANATEE -- Local officials were still celebrating Monday after it was announced roughly 300 full- and part-time workers would remain at the U.S. Postal Service's Manasota Processing & Distribution Center.
The facility at 850 Tallevast Road had been slated to close this month, and its functions transferred to Fort Myers, but it got a last-minute reprieve following a lobbying effort engineered by Manatee County officials and the office of Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key.
The facility employs 183 full-time and 117 "non-career" employees, according to Max Goodman, a spokesman for Buchanan's office.
The closure, however, would not necessarily have resulted in employee layoffs. When a facility is closed, employees are offered jobs elsewhere in the system, according to Enola Rice, a postal service spokeswoman.
It took more than 18 months of effort to persuade postal service officials to retain the Tallevast center, said Manatee County Commissioner Robin DiSabatino.
"It was just a great day today," she said Monday after visiting the center where workers told her they were thrilled by the news.
Among those who helped in the lobbying effort were Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker and county Director of Natural Resources and Parks Charlie Hunsicker; Jocelyn Hong, a Washington-based lobbyist with Twenty-First Century Group; Manatee County commissioners; and Buchanan.
"I applaud the postal service's decision to place on hold the proposed consolidation," said Buchanan in a statement. "Although this is good news, we have to remain diligent to ensure that the facility remains open long-term."
County commissioners were fortunate to work with Buchanan's Washington and Bradenton staffs, said Hunsicker in an email.
A crucial first step was questioning the initial reason given to close the facility. A study had concluded the closing would save money, which Buchanan was able to challenge with his own calculations showing otherwise.
"Over time, we worked to identify the positive attributes of keeping the facility serving southwest Florida...," Hunsicker said, taking the opportunity to also thank postal service officials "for their receptivity to listening and evaluating our concerns.
"We are very pleased for these postal service employees and their families," Hunsicker said.
In 2012, the postal service began a nationwide consolidation, closing 135 mail-processing facilities through last December, Rice said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.