Georgia-Pacific laying off about 655 workers in Arkansas, Alabama

Company shutting down its bleached board operations at Crossett, Ark., particleboard facilities in Hope, Ark., and Monroeville, Ala.

Georgia-Pacific laying off about 655 workers in Arkansas, Alabama
Georgia-Pacific is shutting down its bleached board operations at Crossett, Ark., as of October; one of the mill's older tissue machines in July; and its particleboard facilities in Hope, Ark., and Monroeville, Ala., over the next couple months. Those moves will put about 655 people out of work. (Source: Fred Gamble)

HOPE, Ark. (KSLA) - Georgia-Pacific is shutting down some of its operations in two South Arkansas cities and an Alabama city, a move that will idle about 655 workers.

The Atlanta-based company this week announced plans to close its bleached board operations at Crossett, Ark., as of October.

Company officials said the decision was based on an assessment of the mill’s ability to compete.

“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," said Monty Brown, senior vice president of the company’s consumer products 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.”

Impacted are the bleached board machines, the extrusion plant, the woodyard, the pulp mill and “a significant portion” of the energy complex at the Crossett mill.

And in July, Georgia-Pacific will shut down one of the mill’s older tissue machines.

Those actions will mean the loss of about 530 jobs at the facility. About 25 business and sales jobs also will be affected by the decision.

The company says it also will close its particleboard facilities in Hope, Ark., and Monroeville, Ala., over the next couple months and will not rebuild its facility at Thomson, Ga., which experienced a catastrophic fire last week.

Officials estimate another 100 employees at each of those facilities will be impacted.

“Obviously, it’s not good when you lose any manufacturing jobs,” said Steve Harris, president of the Hempstead County Economic Development Corp.

“And when you lose over 100 manufacturing jobs in your community, it affects more than just those 100 people,” he added, noting that county leaders were surprised by Georgia-Pacific’s decision to end work at its plant in Hope within the next 60-90 days.

The short-term plan, Harris said, is to focus on the workers who are losing their jobs. “And the longer plan is let’s market the facility so we can get somebody else in there.”

Georgia-Pacific has been in Hope for more than 25 years. During that time, other industries have come to the area to support the company’s operations.

The closing of the plant will have a ripple effect, but it is to early to say how bad the impact will be, said Walter Jones, owner and operator of J.D. Farris Trucking Co., of Minden, La.

“It’s going to hurt us quite a bit,” he said, noting that the Hope plant has been a major factor in keeping his trucks on the road.

“We are going to have to rebound; we are going to have to recover. But, yes, it is going to be a big loss indeed.”

Georgia-Pacific will discuss the Crossett shutdown with union leaders and the impacted workers during the next month, including talks about the potential for the employees to transfer to the company’s other locations.

“We understand the impact this decision has on our employees, families and the community," Brown said. "And we will work cooperatively with the state and the community to minimize that impact.”

The company says it will continue to operate and invest in its Crossett mill to support its consumer tissue and towel business. Georgia-Pacific will keep about 500 employees to manage those operations.

The company’s particleboard production in Diboll, Texas, also will remain in operation.

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