On the local employment front, the Georgia-Pacific Lumber and Plywood Plant in Whiteville has announced it will be laying off 400 employees. The news is not good, and obviously has Whiteville residents concerned. Georgia-Pacific blames the layoffs on the slumping housing market. The company makes plywood and lumber, and said it will shut down the Whiteville facility by Christmas. “I saw a lot of shock, a lot of disbelief from the workers that are working there now,” said Sheila Williams, owner of Waffle International in Whiteville. She said a lot of Georgia-Pacific workers eat at her restaurant. “As business owners we know that we're going to lose business with a lot of our regular customers,” added Williams. Leroy Long of Whiteville said, “I know guys that have been there for about thirty years and it's going to be a sad time.” Georgia-Pacific has 60 plants nationwide. So far, the company plans to close only two plants - Whiteville and a facility in Gloster, Mississippi. Julie Davis, Georgia-Pacific spokesperson said, “These are very difficult decisions, ones that the company doesn't take lightly. We understand the impact that this has on the employees and the community, and we're doing everything we can to help our employees as we wind down our operations over the next 60 days.” A small staff of workers will stay on board to maintain the facility. The plant could reopen if the economy turns around, but that is a distant hope for current workers facing a grim Christmas season. Williams said, “I don't think we saw that coming, but with the economy the way it is - you don't know one day to the next.” “Georgia-Pacific was a great big help to Whiteville and this community but what are they going to do now? What are we going to do now,” asked Long. Unemployment in Columbus County is currently running at 8.5 percent. Georgia-Pacific officials said they will work with local employment agencies to help their workers find other work.
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