AKRON — A recent mention of 970 positions being eliminated at FirstEnergy Corp. in a company newsletter does not mean there are massive layoffs coming, a company spokeswoman said. FirstEnergy Solutions, the subsidiary of Akron-based electric utility FirstEnergy Corp. that owns the power plants and FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. is undergoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection proceedings.

As part of the parent company’s plan to move back to a fully regulated utility, FirstEnergy in January 2017 started a review of its corporate and shared services side of the business in a process called FE Tomorrow, said spokeswoman Diane Francis. Part of that was realigning staff, offering voluntary buyouts as well as retirements and not filling open positions, she said. That 970 number is a total number of positions that will have been eliminated out of FirstEnergy when the process is done, Francis said. Some may be reallocated to other parts of FirstEnergy or fulfilled by the buyouts, attrition and retirements.

There have been no mass layoff notices and there are no immediate plans, she said.

"Through our FE Tomorrow initiative, the company has been working to realign the shared services organization (which includes departments such as Legal, Supply Chain, HR and Communications) to better fit the regulated-only business with a priority on minimizing the potential impact to employees. The Voluntary Enhanced Retirement Program, which was offered in June, was a major factor in helping to offset staffing reductions. In addition, we’ve identified open positions in the regulated utilities and transmission group as well as positions currently held by contractors — all of which could be available for employees affected by FE Tomorrow. These efforts will help ensure that all opportunities within the company are identified and made available to employees who are affected by changes within the shared services organization," Francis said.

The Voluntary Enhanced Retirement Program (buyout) was offered to nearly 600 support staff members, including more than 200 who work in the Akron area. Five hundred employees accepted those buyouts, including 180 in the Akron area, Francis said Monday. About half of those Akron staffers work at the downtown Akron headquarters and the other half at the White Pond Drive facility in West Akron. Some staffers have already left the company while others are staying on through the end of the year, she said. The other buyouts were mostly in other corporate locations in Greensburg and Reading, Pa., Francis said.

The employees offered buyouts were nonunion workers with at least 10 years of service who are 58 years old. They were eligible for lump-sum payments based on base pay and their years of service, as well as health benefits and prescription coverage also tied to their years of service. Also included in the severance package was a $1,500 monthly payment for at least 24 months or until the employee reaches the age of 65.

Currently, FirstEnergy employs about 15,300 in five states and among 10 regional utilities, Francis said. The unregulated business has around 3,100 employees, and there are approximately 2,400 employees in the shared services organization. The remaining 9,800 employees are in the regulated business.

There are approximately 1,000 employees in the downtown Akron headquarters and 550 at the West Akron Campus.

Staff writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty