Layoffs

Georgia-Pacific is laying off more than half its workforce in Ashley County.

Georgia-Pacific Corporation said Tuesday that it is firing more than half of its workforce in Crossett, and closing a mill in Hope.

The company said it will shut down its bleached board operations in Ashley County by October, laying off 530 people at the facility plus another 25 business and sales positions

The company also said that it will close two particleboard facilities in Hope and Monroeville, AL, over the next couple of months. It won’t rebuild its Thomson, GA, facility, which experienced a catastrophic fire last week.

Approximately 100 employees at each of those facilities will be laid off.

Georgia-Pacific said its decision to close the Crossett bleached board plant was based on an assessment of the mill’s ability to compete effectively in the bleached board market.

Affected by the Crossett closure are the bleached board machines, extrusion plant, woodyard, pulp mill and a significant portion of the energy complex.

The company will shut down one of the mill’s older tissue machines.

Georgia-Pacific will continue to operate and invest in the Crossett mill to support its consumer tissue and towel business. The Crossett facility has tissue and towel machines and associated converting equipment, as part of its Consumer Products Group. Products from the group include tissue and towels marketed under the Quilted Northern, Angel Soft, Brawny, Sparkle and Dixie brands.

The company will retain approximately 500 employees to manage those operations.

In April, Ashley County had a labor force of 7,773 with 7,401 people employed, according to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services. About 20,300 people live in Ashley County, including about 5,900 in Crossett-North Crossett.

In South Central Arkansas, industrial operations have complained about a lack of skilled labor to fill available positions.

“SAU Tech is never pleased to hear of the loss of jobs in South Arkansas and this situation is no exception,” said Dr. Jason Morrison, chancellor of the East Camden campus.

“As a two-year college, we are committed to ensuring that all displaced workers from these areas have access to training programs that will equip them for employment in jobs that pay a living wage. Our industrial technology programs are a perfect fit to train displaced workers for jobs in the defense industry in our area of the state.

“We welcome requests for tours and information about training programs from the Georgia-Pacific employees. Our admissions office can be reached at 870-574-4558 or by admisofc@sautech.edu ,” Morrison said.

Georgia-Pacific employees will continue to operate the mill in its current manufacturing configuration into October. The company said it will begin discussions with union leadership and the hourly and salaried workforce on how the process affect employees, including the potential to transfer to other Georgia-Pacific locations.

Georgia-Pacific’s bleached board business, including supply to the Dixie business, will be supported from the Naheola and Brewton, AL, mills and the St. Marys, GA, extrusion facility.

“Our Crossett employees have worked hard to safely and productively manage our operations there, and in recent years we have invested significantly in our operations. However, we have decided that the required investments needed for the bleached board machines, pulp mill and woodyard to sustain the operation long-term are not economically viable,” said Monty Brown, senior vice president – Consumer Products Group Operations. “We understand the impact this decision has on our employees, families and the community, and we will work cooperatively with the state and the community to minimize that impact.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson called Georgia-Pacific’s announcement “disappointing.”

“This is a tough hit to South Arkansas and all the families impacted,” Hutchinson said.

He said he would speak with Georgia-Pacific’s president on Tuesday “in order to understand more fully the reasons behind this decision.

“I've already spoken with key cabinet officials, and we are focused on providing all available resources and necessary training to ensure that those who are losing their jobs later in the year are given every opportunity to secure new employment here in Arkansas."

Georgia-Pacific's particleboard production in Diboll, TX, will remain in operation.

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