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Billings REI opening postponed
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Billings REI opening postponed

From the Here's the latest reporting on how area businesses and industries are being affected by the coronavirus series
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Shiloh and King construction REI

Construction has started on a brand new building for outdoor retailer REI at Shiloh Road and King Avenue West.

The Washington-based outdoor retailer REI was set to open its first store in Billings this spring, but the opening date has been postponed due to the ongoing pandemic.

All 162 REI locations closed in March, although online orders are still being fulfilled. On Monday the closure of the stores was extended indefinitely, and furloughs were issued for most employees. 

Employees who had been hired in Billings have had their offers "rescinded," according to an REI spokesperson. 

No employees had yet begun training, the spokesperson said in an email. The new REI store was set to employ 55 people. Those who had already been hired will have offers extended to them when the store reopens.

Construction began in 2019 on the new Billings location, which would be the fourth in the state and was estimated to cost $1.5 million, according to a building permit application filed by Collaborative Design, the architect and design firm handling the project.

Other locations in Montana are in Missoula, Kalispell and Bozeman. 

REI confirmed the Billings store's opening on the far West End in November, after more than a year of local speculation.

A new building was constructed near the northwest corner of Shiloh Road and King Avenue West, on a new road called Henry Chapple. 

Monday REI also announced that most employees would be furloughed for 90 days starting on April 15.

Health and welfare benefits will continue for furloughed employees who were eligible for benefits. 

The CEO of REI, Eric Artz, announced some cuts for the board of directors. Artz said he will forfeit 6 months of his base salary, and the board of directors will be taking 20% pay cuts for the next 6 months.

Some staff at the REI's headquarters, which is based in Washington, were also laid off. 

"I am optimistic we will come out of this crisis as strong a community and business as we were coming into it," Artz said in the announcement.

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