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Timber Products will close White City plant

WHITE CITY — Timber Products Company announced it will close its White City plant and

move its Southern Oregon softwood plywood production to Grants Pass.

Fourteen people likely will lose their jobs.

The Springfield-based wood products company said the final day of production at White City will be Nov. 25, and workers set to be reassigned will start new jobs Dec. 1.

Timber Products human resources executive Bill Nevell said the White City plant employs 44. Of those workers, 28 will go to the Grants Pass plant or the company's Spectrum Division, which makes decorative laminates on Avenue G in White City. Two more will be reassigned elsewhere in the company and 14 layoffs are anticipated, he said.

(Corrected: See below)

“Hopefully, at the end of the day we can find home for as many as we can,” David Gonyea, vice president of hardwood plywood at Timber Products said today.

With the deterioration of construction, sales have dropped across most wood products lines.

Both Timber Products plants in Grants Pass and White City were running on reduced schedules, officials said. The company will ramp up operations in Josephine County, where it rebuilt the former U.S. Forest Industries Plywood plant on Southeast M Street in 2005.

Timber Products ran both hardwood plywood and softwood plywood lines there before reducing its schedule to just hardwood. Beginning next month, it will again run both lines.

The White City plant will be mothballed until the market rebounds, the company said.

“The softwood plywood part of the industry has been as dramatically affected as any part of the wood products industry,” said Timber Products Vice President Roger Rutan, reached in Chicago. “What we are doing is pure reaction to the marketplace.”

Rutan said he anticipated a smooth transition to Grants Pass, ensuring an uninterrupted flow of materials to customers.

The 91-year-old is one of the largest material suppliers to the U.S. kitchen cabinet industry. Timber Products owns nine plants in Oregon, California, Mississippi and Michigan.

Wood products operations that survived the recession three decades ago and the closing of Federal timberlands in the 1990s have been hit hard following the residential real estate bust and credit crunch.

“Nothing is good in the industry right now because housing starts are so low right now,” said Dave Schott of the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association. “Timber Products still has its hardwood plywood that supplies the furniture and cabinetry companies. The remodel business is still holding up OK, but the housing starts report that just came out shows we're down to about a quarter of where we were four years ago.”

Single-family and multiple-family residential building has declined from more than 2.1 million units annually to little more than 500,000 this year.

“There used to be rail car after rail car shipped out of this valley,” Schott said. “Now there is hardly anything going out because construction is so limited.”

— Greg Stiles

Correction: Bill Nevell's name was listed incorrectly in an early version of this story. This version has been updated.