Georgia-Pacific will not reopen and will work with the approximately 100 employees affected by the fire that destroyed the facility May 29 to find a job.
The industry on Harrison Road was destroyed by a swift moving fire and more than 80 percent of the facility was burned and 95 people were employed at the plant.
The May 29 fire at the particle board facility began around 2 p.m. in the raw material storage shed, then quickly spread and built up so fast that the fire suppression system was unable to contain it, said company spokesperson Rick Kimble.
In a June 4 announcement, Georgia-Pacific announced that it had made the very difficult decision to permanently close the fire-damaged Thomson plant.
“We understand that this greatly affects our employees and the community and we will work with all of our employees affected by this decision to help them in whatever transition they must make,” said Karen Cole, the company’s senior communications manager.
The company’s decision to not rebuild the Thomson plant was not alone. It also decided to close its composite panels business in Hope, Arkansas and Monroeville, Alabama over the next 60 to 90 days.
According to Cole, approximately 100 employees at each of those two facilities are also impacted by the closings.
“Demand for particleboard remains flat, and new mills from other producers will increase capacity in the market as much as 25 percent,” Cole said. “These new mills are larger than our mills, use state of the art technology, and are more efficient than our mills, making it difficult for our assets to compete economically going forward.”
Georgia-Pacific is one of the world's leading makers of tissue, pulp, paper, packaging, building products, and related chemicals. Georgia-Pacific established itself in Thomson in July 2014 after purchasing the International Paper facility, which had assumed Temple-Inland in 2012. The former Temple-Inland began operation in 1974.
Charlie Newton, chairman of the McDuffie County Commission and board member of Forward McDuffie, said both Temple/Georgia-Pacific were a big part of Thomson-McDuffie for many years and were excellent community partners and provided excellent jobs.
“It is sad to see them go. This is a devastating blow to this community,’ he said. “We will do everything in our power to reach out to a new industry to fill the void that will be left. We hate to see them go.”
The company announced that all employees would be paid all earned wages and their entitled benefits.
Late last week, Kimble said the employees at the Thomson Plant are able to apply to other Georgia-Pacific facilities for employment.
According to Cole, Georgia-Pacific has openings at its other facilities across the country. “We will be working with our particle board employees to explore those roles and apply for positions,” she said.
Georgia-Pacific Corp. opened a new, $135 million softwood lumber production facility in Warrenton earlier this year. The 340,000-square-foot facility is next to its existing lumber mill on the Warrenton-Thomson Highway.