Clearwater Paper Corporation announced Wednesday morning they would be permanently shutting down the Thomaston plant, affecting a total of 150 employees. The tissue converting and distribution facility stated in a press release they would begin gradually shutting down equipment throughout the rest of this year, with operations being totally shut down by the first quarter of 2014. Most of the equipment from Thomaston will be integrated into the facilities in Oklahoma City and Shelby, North Carolina.
“This has been a difficult decision-one where the company reviewed many scenarios and alternatives to closing the plant,” said Tom Colgrove, president of Clearwater Paper’s consumer products division. “We concluded that consolidating regional converting and permanently closing Thomaston was the solution to best serve the needs of our southeastern customers and improve the overall logistics of our national manufacturing network.”
The announcement of the closure came as a bit of a shock to local authorities, but even though they consider this a blow to the economy of the community, many have stated they also feel Thomaston can rise up and carry on.
“It was disconcerting to receive the news, as it will affect the entire community,” said Thomaston Mayor Hays Arnold. “We definitely offer our consolation to the employees of the company and our main concern and hope is that they will be able to find suitable employment. This is a setback, but not an absolute disaster and we will continue to go forward. If anything positive can come from this, hopefully we can use to our advantage the beautiful, modern facility that will be left behind and be able to attract another industry.”
Thomaston-Upson Industrial Development Authority Chairman Billy Johnston noted TUIDA would continue to actively recruit new industries and grow the existing industrial base.
“The commitment of the IDA remains the same- to create jobs through our existing industrial base and the recruitment of new industries. Our community is strong and resilient and this is an opportunity for us to come together, promote our great work force and move ahead finding opportunities to enhance our economic development efforts.”
The displaced employees will be given the opportunity to apply for open positions at other Clearwater Paper facilities. In addition the company is offering separation and incentive pay for employees who remain at the local plant until their established final day of work. Colgrove noted that the company’s goal is to provide jobs where possible to their valued employees, but where they are not able to do so, they want to ensure that they are doing what they can to help the affected employees through this difficult transition. Therefore, Clearwater Paper is also working closely with West Central Georgia Private Industries Council and the Economic Development Division at Southern Crescent Technical College (SCTC) to assist with career transition services where needed.
“We are working with the Department of Labor to do a transitional plan for the 150 employees,” said Kay Williamson, Director of Economic Development at SCTC. “We want to ensure they are taken care of and have the possibility of becoming better educated or even receiving their GED. A positive way to look at this is that it may be a way for those who want to, to further their education.”
Kyle Fletcher, Executive Director of the TUIDA, noted they will be making sure the employees are aware of the resources available to them.
“The Thomaston-Upson County Industrial Development Authority will work to assist the employees of Clearwater Paper over the next 14 months by making them aware of available resources through the Georgia Department of Labor, Georgia Department of Economic Development, and Southern Crescent Technical College. Finding other career opportunities for Clearwater Paper’s employees is a big priority for us at this time.”
The company expects the total impact of non-recurring exit-related costs to be approximately be $6-7 million of which approximately $4-5 million will be incurred in 2013. The cost savings benefits resulting from the equipment relocation and converting facility optimization, which are part of the company’s previously announced cost savings programs, are expected to be fully realized beginning in the fourth quarter of 2014.