Georgia-Pacific closes Roxie plant, 70 lose jobs

Published 11:25 pm Saturday, November 18, 2006

Georgia-Pacific Corp. has ended production at its Roxie chip and sawmill, leaving 70 people without jobs.

Wednesday was the last day of production at the plant, Georgia-Pacific spokeswoman Melodie Ruse said Friday.

“It was a very hard decision to make,” Ruse said. “Any time you take 70 people out of the work force it’s a tough time.”

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The Roxie sawmill and the Gloster plywood plant were both idle for nearly three years until the plants reopened in 2005 to salvage and process excess timber destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The decision drew praise from local and state leaders, including Gov. Haley Barbour.

Ruse said the Gloster plant will stay open.

“We don’t have any plans for curtailment at the Gloster plant at this moment,” she said. “I have not received any information about that plant closing.”

The decision to halt production at the Roxie plant was tough but necessary, Ruse said.

“The market was down, and that greatly affected the business. We will look at coming back up, but not until the middle of next year. At that point we will reevaluate and look at market conditions to see if they have improved,” Ruse said.

Although the plant’s production has stopped, existing inventory will be finished and shipped over the next couple of weeks.

G-P is offering employees severance packages. Hourly employees are eligible for 60 days of pay and benefits and will be eligible for unemployment benefits after those funds are exhausted, Ruse said.

“We are concerned about our employees and the effect that this has on their well-being,” she said. “This curtailment certainly wasn’t a reflection on the work that they’ve done. They’ve done a great job.”

David Holland, with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, said people from Franklin, Lincoln, Lawrence, Adams and Pike counties worked at the plant.

Holland said the department may be able to find other jobs for the employees, but it won’t be easy.

“A lot of people will have to be absorbed elsewhere,” he said. “Some people have worked for the company for years and are close to retirement. It might be difficult for them to find jobs.”

Purchased by G-P in 1973 from Southern American Cooperation, the Roxie mill produced 1-by-4, 2-by-4 and 2-by-6 pine lumber.

In September, Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific sold wood product mills in Eupora, Louisville, Oxford and Taylorsville to Roseburg Forest Products Co. of Roseburg, Ore.

In July, G-P announced 85 hourly jobs would be eliminated at its mill in Monticello in a restructuring of the facility. The Monticello mill produces linerboard for corrugated boxes. The linerboard comes off large rolls and is cut to customers’ orders.

The Monticello plant employed 555 employees in July — 419 hourly and 136 salaried.