COOS BAY, Ore. — Georgia-Pacific Wood Products announced on April 11 it is closing its lumber mill in Coos Bay, Ore., and will lay off all of the facility's 111 employees beginning June 10.
The Atlanta-based company cited overall market conditions, coupled with historically unreliable rail service, as reasons for the decision.
"It is absolutely, positively the last thing you want to do," said Rick Kimble, a spokesman for Georgia-Pacific. "But at the end of the day, sometimes things have to be done."
Kimble said the mill, which opened in 1994, made dimensional lumber from local Douglas-fir, but the availability and cost of logs made it a challenge to operate the site with competition from Asian markets.
"Part of the issue is that Coos Bay is a big export center for logs going overseas," Kimble said. "If you are pulling from that wood basket, you are not just competing with other sawmills, but you're competing against the export market, which is typically going to be higher-price logs."
Meanwhile, the International Port of Coos Bay's swing span railroad bridge has also been closed for more than a year following a structural failure in 2018, according to an article in the Coos Bay World. Kimble said 70% of the mill's production was shipped via train, but without the bridge in service, trucks instead have had to haul the lumber to an offload center.
"It's been a huge handicap for that site," he said.
Bill Goodman, general manager of western lumber for Georgia-Pacific, said the company "will work closely with affected employees and the designated collective bargaining representative of the facility's hourly employees to minimize the impact of this business decision," in a filing submitted to state Office of Workforce Investments.
Kimble said all employees will get 60 days of salary and benefits, and Georgia-Pacific will hold a job fair for any workers who want to participate.
According to Georgia-Pacific's website, the company operates eight other facilities in Oregon, including a lumber mill in Philomath and sites in Portland, Eugene, Canby, Clatskanie, Toledo, Halsey and Albany.