Woodgrain Millwork to close local plant

It will move White City operations to Prineville; the plant's 40-some workers will be offered jobs at other company sites

WHITE CITY — Woodgrain Millwork Inc. of Fruitland, Idaho, plans to close its Antelope Road plant and shift production to its Prineville operation.

A company spokesman said the plant, which operated three shifts and employed more than 100 people during its peak several years ago, presently has about 40 workers.

Oregon Dislocated Worker Unit will help employees

In the days ahead, the Oregon Dislocated Worker Unit will swing into action in response to Woodgrain Millwork's announced plant closure.

The unit's job is to help workers during transition periods after job sites are relocated or shuttered.

Ken Heindsman, the unit's local liaison, said the representatives will likely meet with Woodgrain Millwork employees in the next two weeks.

The unit for Jackson and Josephine counties is called in six to 10 times a year, he said.

The most recent occurrence involved 14 workers at the McDonald Wholesale Co.'s meat distribution operation on Market Street in Medford. That work ended last month as the company moved its operations to the Willamette Valley.

In February, Scooter Lift Manufacturing's plant on Mason Way shuttered, putting 24 people out of work.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which took effect in 1989, requires companies shutting plants to give employees 60 days' notice and to contact state and local government officials.

"The number has been going down over the years as we've shifted production elsewhere because of efficiencies," said Woodgrain spokesman Brooks Dame, whose grandfather began lumber and molding operations in Cedar City, Utah, in 1954.

The company's executive management and owners decided shutting down White City operations was the best response to declining housing starts, a shaky market and increasing global competition.

"The decision to relocate and consolidate was made after a long, thorough analysis of all available options," said Mike Ball, vice president of millwork in a statement. "We have many great, experienced associates that have been with us for many years, which we hope will relocate with us."

Dame said the closure is scheduled for Sept. 7 and all present employees will be offered employment at Woodgrain Millwork's plants in Prineville, Lakeview or Fruitland. The company said compensation packages are being offered to local employees.

Woodgrain Millwork has operated the plant at 1385 Antelope Road since buying it from Jessup Door Co. for $750,000 in 1996, according to county records.

"A lot of the decision has to do with overseas competition," Dame said. "It's hard to compete with China. Part of it is location (along with) the wood supply and type of machinery we have there that can only do certain things. We do some of the work there, send it to Prineville and then send it back. The transportation and equipment weren't efficient enough to make it work.

"I don't know if that would have come into play if it wasn't for foreign competition," Dame added. "It's squeezed us to get leaner and leaner and leaner. It got to the point where we couldn't do anything more to cut costs."

Woodgrain Millwork produces moldings and windows and is the largest manufacturer of interior pine doors in the United States. The company has five divisions and about 30 manufacturing and warehouse facilities. It employs nearly 5,000 globally with plants in 14 states — in every region but the Rockies and New England — as well as Brazil and Chile. According to the Window & Door Top 100, released in February, the company's annual sales are between $300 million and $500 million.

The plant has gone through a series of ups and downs as well as ownership changes over the years. In 1992, Jessup Door Co. of Dowagiac, Mich., acquired the facility from WestPac Industries, announcing it would hire up to 170 people. WestPac of Waco, Texas, closed the plant when it filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The 7.2-acre operation began in 1970 as Oregon Cutstock Co. and became part of WestPac in 1986.

The Prineville plant, acquired for $14.3 million in 2004, employs more than 200 people.

"Fruitland is our most diverse plant for operator positions, Prineville is the largest because we store a lot more wood there and we're expanding the Lakeview facility," Dame said. "Some of the guys in White City are lifetimers with us and I hope they stay with us."

Dislocated Worker Unit liaison Ken Heindsman, a business service manager for the Job Council, said there is no pattern when it comes to relocation.

"It depends on the company, opportunities and wages," Heindsman said. "You've also got to take into account the dynamics of their home lives and families in making the decisions."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.

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