GP plant now part of Oregon-based company

Published 9:43 pm Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The purchase of the local Georgia-Pacific Corp. plant by Roseburg, Ore.-based Roseburg Forest Products Co. was recently finalized, with new signs replacing the “big blue” GP logo at the facility north of Oxford.

While neither the work nor the number of employees will be different as part of the deal, the new name does bring some meaningful changes, plant manager Mike Reardon said.

“I’m looking forward to being part of a smaller group,” said Reardon, who’d been with Georgia-Pacific for some 24 years.

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“This is my first new company since coming out of college,” he said. “I think it’s going to be better. Georgia-Pacific had gotten so big, you feel like you’re a number.”

While the two companies have shared a common market in wood products — albeit on separate sides of the country — Georgia-Pacific employs some 50,000 people compared to Roseburg’s 4,000. GP’s products range from lumber and particleboard to bathroom tissue and Dixie cups.

Roseburg, which is more narrowly focused on building materials and other wood products, is a privately owned company closely held by its founding family. Allyn Ford, whose father Kenneth Ford founded the company in 1936, serves as president and has visited the Oxford plant to meet employees since the sale was announced.

“He’s been working to grow the company since he took over,” Roseburg communications director Kris Russell said of the younger Ford.

The purchase of Oxford’s plant is part of a deal announced in September which includes six other Georgia-Pacific facilities — in Eupora, Louisville and Taylorsville, as well as in Russellville and Holly Hill, S.C., and Vienna, Ga. The plants employ about 870 people, including 120 at the Oxford facility.

The transfer of software and systems at the Oxford plant has been simpler than in other plants that are part of Georgia-Pacific complexes, where utility services and even equipment like boilers may be shared among several facilities.

That’s meant that the deal has included not only contracts for the sale of property and equipment, but also in some cases for the purchase of steam off a central boiler. The mills in south Mississippi also purchase their wood from Georgia-Pacific.

“It’s amazing — all the parts and pieces,” Russell said.

Among the first priorities in bringing the GP plants into Roseburg’s management: Making sure systems at the sites and in Oregon are communicating so that employees can get paid.

Locally, health care plans are not changing for hourly employees, since that’s a term of union agreements, and new Roseburg health plans for salaried employees are “just as good or better,” Reardon said.

The Oxford facility is also getting regional office status, which may mean a few more staff members. Darrell Keeling, Roseburg’s vice president of composite panel manufacturing, is moving to Oxford, and additional staff may include an executive assistant for him as well as a regional controller and possibly an engineer.

Overall, Roseburg’s arrival is a great deal for Oxford, Reardon said.

“We’re going to be here — we’re not a plant that’s going away by any means,” he said.

“We’re with somebody who wants to be in this business, and this deal actually makes us the largest in North America. Any time you can be the biggest and best, it’s a big advantage and more stability for the employees here.”

The 35-year-old facility once employed more than 260 people under Georgia-Pacific, but the old particleboard portion of the plant closed in 2003. About half of the 170 employees laid off then had been at the plant for more than 15 years.

Production is now focused in the melamine plant, a $30 million investment completed in 2001.