Georgia-Pacific will invest $70 million to upgrade its plywood and lumber operations in Gurdon.
The company also said Wednesday that it will make a $100,000 commitment over five years to the Gurdon School District for a multi-use playing field.
No additional employment is expected from the Clark County investment. Increases in efficiency and capacity will help Georgia-Pacific meet the growing needs of customers for lumber and plywood, and sustain more than 700 jobs at the two facilities.
In June, Georgia-Pacific said that it was firing more than half of its workforce in Crossett, and closing a mill in Hope. The company will close its bleached board operations in Ashley County by October, laying off 530 people at the facility plus another 25 business and sales positions.
“We are making state of the art improvements that will transform our Gurdon facilities, greatly improving the utilization of raw materials and overall operating efficiencies, making jobs more meaningful, and turning us into an even stronger competitor," said Mike White, Western Regional operations manager.
“This investment is validation of the work, commitment, and loyalty of our employees and the support Gurdon and Clark County have demonstrated for years,” said White, who started as an electrician at the plant when it was built in 1979. “And as any facilities manager will tell you, the quality of the workforce is the critical factor for success. All the latest technology isn't nearly as important as having the caliber of competent, responsible, conscientious employees we have.”
GP's investment will have a ripple economic effect in the southern Arkansas region, generating $169 million in overall impact, according to Dr. Gauri Guha, associate professor of economics at Arkansas State University.
“Any large investment in an economic sector is amplified by regional economic multipliers due to direct, indirect and induced effects of the expenditures,” Dr. Guha said. “This means a direct investment of $70 million ends up generating an economic value of $169 million within the year.”
Some of the improvements include the install of an advanced merchandiser that determines best end-product use, new panel assembly stations with state-of-the-art scanning systems, an upgraded power plant and software and security enhancements. Work on the projects began earlier this summer and will be completed by 2020.
Georgia-Pacific's contribution for a $100,000 multi-use playing field provides a setting for students to participate in extra-curricular activities.
“The Gurdon schools have been such a cooperative, helpful and successful partner in ensuring we have the talented people we need,” said Carrie Wilkins, Regional Human Resources for GP's Plywood and Lumber divisions. “We want and need them to continue to be successful, so our aim is to contribute meaningfully to our schools every year.”
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.
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