By Theresa Schmidt, KPLC-TV
Georgia-Pacific will “cease operations” at its lumber facility in DeQuincy due to market conditions, the company announced over the weekend.
Hidden behind the pine trees along Highway 12, is the lumber plant, employing 188 people. Most have been notified their jobs will end in 60 days when the plant stops operating.
Company spokesperson Yana Ogletree says it’s due to the current economy.
“Georgia-Pacific chose to idle the facility in hopes that we will see improved markets in the future. When you idle a plant it’s not a definite shutdown. It’s idled indefinitely. We will keep a small crew on staff to maintain the facility,” she said.
So, no one is out of a job yet.
She says the employees will work in the transition which is to wrap up at the end of June. She says it’s no fault of the employees.
“When you think about the worldwide pandemic with COVID-19 and the strain that it’s put on the construction market, it’s caused a severe change in future lumber and what that demand is. And although it seems like we have made some progress as a country and world as a whole, lumber is not expected to return to pre-pandemic rates for quite some time,” said Ogletree.
“The DeQuincy lumber team has done an outstanding job of continuous improvement at that facility. Unfortunately, given the impact of COVID-19, there’s nothing that they could have done differently to change this decision. They’ve done a fantastic job there and this decision is by no means a reflection of their efforts,” she said.
DeQuincy Mayor Riley Smith says closing the plant will be a blow to the community, in terms of jobs and revenue.
“I don’t have the exact figures in front of me, but this would be very detrimental to us,” he said.
For now, Smith tries to remain optimistic that the market for lumber will come back.
“This is a very sobering thing that has happened and we’re hoping that the market will pick up and this will just be a temporary thing for Georgia-Pacific,” said Smith.
The plant is operating as they fill orders and dispose of inventory. Ogletree says employees may apply for jobs at other Georgia Pacific facilities, if the plant closes permanently. Georgia-Pacific says the facility could reopen if the market for lumber increases.
Ogletree says they have asked the state’s Rapid Response Recovery organization to assist employees in finding work, filing for unemployment and other needs.