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BILLINGS - Package delivery service DHL Express says it will close all seven of its Montana offices operated by contractors. Offices in the Wyoming cities of Rock Springs and Casper will close, as well.

The first of the closures is scheduled to occur Friday.

In Montana, the decision means that customers wishing to send packages out of the state must take them to one of DHL's pickup locations, which are still to be announced, or use other carriers. DHL said the U.S. Postal Service will handle the final leg of delivery for Montana-bound packages that originate as DHL shipments. Such packages have been transported around Montana by the company On Target Xpress of Billings. With DHL's tightening, about 45 employees of On Target Xpress will lose their jobs.

DHL's Montana offices are in Billings, Belgrade, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell and Missoula. Closing them is part of a national restructuring by the company, which did not disclose how many offices elsewhere will shut down.

"We're just looking at areas with the highest costs to serve and we're having USPS deliver the final mile," DHL spokesman Robert Mintz said from Seattle. "It will significantly reduce our cost structure, but allow us to still service our customers."

Reducing shipments to the most remote cities and towns affects less than 3 percent of DHL's total volume, Mintz said.

"This is all part of our plans to restructure operations on the express ground side to reduce costs," he said.

"With gas prices and the economy, lots of companies are changing the way they do business."

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