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Altria layoffs impact hundreds in Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. — The giant of Richmond’s tobacco industry is trimming back its workforce, including hundreds of local positions. Locally-based Altria Group announced Thursday it will eliminate about 490 salaried employees over the next couple of months, including about 200 to 250 in Richmond.

The cuts are part of what the company calls a “productivity initiative” that is expected to save $300 million annually by the end of 2017.

Some of those savings will be used to reinvest in initiatives for Altria’s family of companies, which includes leading cigarette maker Philip Morris USA, smokeless tobacco producer U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., cigar maker John Middleton and tobacco development company NuMark.

Those initiatives include brand building, harm reduction and regulatory capabilities, said Jennifer Hunter, an Altria spokeswoman.

“This productivity initiative is intended to help maintain our companies’ leadership and cost-competitiveness,” Hunter said. “We’re doing this at a time when the businesses had a strong year, and this is about strengthening the capability of our businesses through investment in important initiatives.”

Hunter said Altria CEO Marty Barrington informed employees Thursday morning before a scheduled quarterly earnings conference call.

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