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Posted on Thu, Sep 3, 2009 : 7:29 a.m.

Ann Arbor-based Con-way Freight exec: Personnel count stable, but economy 'starting to scrape bottom'

By Nathan Bomey

The Ann Arbor headquarters for global shipping services company Con-way Freight is keeping its head count relatively steady after a sudden implosion in the shipping market during the financial crisis.

The firm’s Ann Arbor Township headquarters laid off 80 employees in December, just 12 months after announcing it would add 120 workers in a consolidation of its facilities into one local office. Employment at Con-way's Ann Arbor operation has since stabilized, but the firm is taking a "very conservative" approach to its business right now, a top executive said.

Con-way Freight has 236 employees at its Ann Arbor Township headquarters, said Tom Nightingale, chief marketing officer and vice president for communications at Con-way Inc., the San Mateo, Calif.-based $4.5 billion parent company of Con-way Freight . The firm has 10 open positions locally, he said.

Con-way Freight had about 310 employees in Ann Arbor before it abruptly laid off 80 workers in early December due to deteriorating economic conditions.

Nightingale said the economy seems to be “starting to scrape the bottom,” but he predicted that overcapacity in the shipping sector would slow the industry’s recovery.“We’re still very conservative,” he said. “We still have some uphill sledding ahead of us.”


Among the factors that could influence Con-way Freight’s local hiring trajectory are the financial troubles of one of its top rivals, Overland Park, Kan.-based YRC Worldwide Inc. YRC boasts a truck shipping market share in the range of 20 percent.

Con-way’s strategy for surviving economic turmoil revolves around a conservative financial approach, Nightingale said.

“Our goal is still to be our own bank,” he said. “You do not want to have to go out and access the public debt markets or other forms of liquidity. We expect more of the same in 2010.”

Con-way Inc., which boasts a market capitalization of about $2.01 billion, has some 26,600 employees in its three divisions, according to Yahoo! Finance. Some 20,000 of those employees work for Con-way Freight, a less-than-truckload shipping specialist with about 290 shipping service centers throughout the country.

(Photo of Tom Nightingale; courtesy of Con-way Inc.)

Contact's Nathan Bomey at or (734) 623-2587, or follow him on Twitter.