HAWTHORNE – Communities are preparing for the economic backlash in October when a local factory closes, leaving 400 people unemployed.
Georgia Pacific, a plywood factory located in Putnam County and in the city limits of Hawthorne, announced Friday that the factory’s indefinite curtailment of production will begin Oct. 14. Described as hopefully a temporary situation, the factory will cease operations, but the equipment will be left at the plant pending possible future resumption of production.
Hawthorne Mayor Larry Guidi said the city is being proactive by trying to establish political and legislative communications with the groups that could help the city’s situation.
“We are trying to encourage the leaders to know how much our city will be impacted by this loss,” he said. “We hope to open doors and get people together to pool resources.”
The closing will not only affect the 400 unemployed workers and their families, but local establishments such as restaurants, clothing stores and gas stations, will also suffer because people will spend less money in the community, according to Guidi.
He said Georgia Pacific’s temporary closing has brought reality to the economic situation across the country.
“A large, nationally known company such as Georgia Pacific in the little town of Hawthorne gave us a sense of place in the country,” he said.
Trish Bowles, the public affairs manager for Georgia Pacific’s Palatka operation, said she blames the market conditions for the housing industry’s decline in plywood purchases.
“We really thought the housing market would change this year, and that is why we left the facility open,” she said. “It continued to be unprofitable and the factory’s situation got worse.”
Bowles said there is a chance for the factory to reopen once market conditions are favorable again. Until then, the company is attempting to assist employees in finding new jobs.
Workers are encouraged to apply to other Georgia Pacific facilities around the state. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) guarantees the workers pay for 60 days or until Nov. 7, according to Bowles.
Georgia Pacific is working with the Council for Economic Outreach to connect employees with new job opportunities and Florida Workforce One-Stop Career Centers to help build the resumes and skills of those who were laid off.
Ellen Vause, Hawthorne’s city manager, said she is encouraging people to be positive in this challenging time.
“One of the things everyone needs to do is figure out where their assets and abilities are,” she said. “Think outside the box. Rethink traditional opportunities.”
Associated industries that work in tandem with Georgia Pacific, such as logging businesses and contractors, will also suffer a loss, according to Vause.
Georgia Pacific was an important part of Hawthorne, and the company sponsored schools, churches and even select families in the community, she said.
For example, Georgia Pacific was the primary sponsor of the Chamber of Commerce’s community bowling tournament. Proceeds from the event benefited a scholarship program that was awarded to two students each year.
“They are our corporate partners and have been generous to the community as a whole,” Vause said.
The city of Hawthorne is used to the factory idling down its production for months at a time, she said.
Still, Vause said she is hoping that the indefinite curtailment will end quickly so that the community can get back on track.
“As a small community, we are used to our challenges. Now, we have to know that every challenge can give us a new opportunity.”
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