It was a grim Tuesday morning for Georgia Pacific employees at the Fordyce, Arkansas Pulp Wood Plant. All employees at the GP plant were called in for a meeting at 10 am with corporate representatives from Atlanta, Georgia and given the news that their plant was closing its doors. Georgia Pacific was the number two employer in Dallas County.
According to a GP press release, the closure will affect about 340 employees that had previously been employed at the curtailed facility. However, roughly a third of that number will be needed to restart a plywood line at the Crossett plywood mill and the company is encouraging Fordyce employees to apply for those positions.
“Our employees have done a great job – this layoff is not a reflection on their efforts,” said Jeff Watts, Fordyce plant manager. “We appreciate their dedication and commitment and, in fact, hope that many will apply for open positions at Crossett.”
Georgia-Pacific said the closure is due in part to the construction industry’s poor performance, but also because neighboring mills at Crossett and Gurdon offer increased efficiencies. Both those operations are complexes that have more than one mill, with the opportunity to share capabilities such as transportation, human resources and other resources.
This plant closing will undoubtedly have rippling effect throughout the community of Fordyce. Not only will it affect the people that got laid off, it will also adversely affect the housing industry, schools, timber industry, and the small town economy. Many people who are unable to find new employment will be forced to put their homes up for sale and try to relocate but with the lack of jobs in the Dallas County area, it isn’t likely that they will be able to sale their homes. This could ultimately push many former GP employees into foreclosure on their homes and properties.
Richard Courtney, age 52, is a resident of the nearby small town of Thornton and a former Boiler Operator at GP. With a house payment and bills rolling in like clockwork he will be forced to find a new employer soon. The 60 days of pay will help but he and his family but they has no long term plans for providing for their family. His daughter, Jessica Key, said, “I just cannot believe it is over, my dad has been there since 1976.”
Rose Hopkins a 53 year old Utility Worker that has been an employee of GP for 15 years is more than a little concerned about continued insurance coverage and medical care for her husband. Rose’s husband, Glen Hopkins, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer earlier this year and is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Rose will need to find a new employer quickly but does not even begin to know where to look. Mittie Owens, their daughter, said, “Our main concern right now is seeing that my dad continues to receive the necessary medical treatments that he needs. Next to that, my mom really needs to find a job and fast. This has really been a tough year for my family.”
Georgia-Pacific stated that it will relocate selected equipment to other company facilities. Once this process has been completed, the property will be sold. However, a small log yard operation will remain on site. Fordyce was the industry’s first Southern pine plywood mill, built in 1964.