Although Wayfair, an online store for furniture, decor, housewares and more, was not clear about why exactly they changed their minds about opening a call center in Meridian Township on South Hagadorn Road, city officials speculate it was due to COVID-19.
“They did not say exactly what the reason was, but they let us know as soon as they knew that they were not looking for long-term locations,” said Amber Clark, Meridian Township’s Neighborhood and Economic Development Director.
“Like other organizations due to the Covid-19 crisis they aren’t looking for in person locations, that’s our speculation,” said Frank Walsh, Township Manager, who explained that though this decision came as a surprise, it was expected. “We were surprised, but we also had our doubts once Covid-19 hit five or six months ago. We could see that it was going to be easier and safer for people to work out of their homes rather than putting 500 people in the building.”
“Although the news is devastating, we certainly understand it’s a safety and health issue here,” Walsh said.
Impact on the community
The news of Wayfair no longer occupying space in the area not only negatively affected the township financially, but it also negatively affected the township population wise.
Walsh said, “Five hundred less people working in the community and just in the region affects everyone — Lansing, East Lansing, Mason — all of us because those 500 people would be living and shopping in all of our areas, not even just Meridian Township.”
Residents of the community were also saddened by the decision as well. Kyla Mabry, a Meridian Township resident, was one of the many people who were hoping to apply for a job at the new call center.
“I had been job searching for a while, when I found out about the call center,” Mabry said, “and I was very excited about the opportunity to work with a company like Wayfair. I couldn’t believe they decided to not come to the community anymore, but I understand that Coronavirus has changed how many companies operate.”
Possible plans for Wayfair call center
Despite the call center plans being cancelled, there may still be a chance Wayfair may open a call site post pandemic.
“We’ve had those conversations with them about possibly coming to Meridian Township in the future, once we get through COVID, the door is always going to be open if they want to come back,” said Walsh.
Residents are still hoping for Wayfair to come to the community and are also willing to welcome them with open arms if they decide to come. Kyla Mabry said: “If Wayfair does decide down the line to come to Meridian Township, I will be very excited for all the jobs opportunities they will come with and the community would really benefit from having a business-like Wayfair in the area.”
Initial Wayfair project
Wayfair, decided to lease an office space in Meridian Township in late 2019. Wayfair announced that they would be fixing up and leasing a 62,000 square foot building at 4700 S. Hagadorn Road. Wayfair planned to create a call center which was planned to bring in about 500 new employees according to the press release put out November 29, 2019.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation contributed money for the development of the building and according to the press release, the company planned on starting the hiring process in the first half of 2020.
Clark said the property was a good fit for Wayfair because the building had been vacant for some time. It would have been a win-win situation for the company and the township, she said.