Georgia-Pacific Corp. will bring 500 jobs to southwest Mississippi by reopening two mills to salvage and process excess timber that was knocked to the ground by Hurricane Katrina, Gov. Haley Barbour said.
JACKSON, Miss. Georgia-Pacific Corp. will bring 500 jobs to southwest Mississippi by reopening two mills to salvage and process excess timber that was knocked to the ground by Hurricane Katrina, Gov. Haley Barbour said Friday.
The move brings a needed boost to a rural part of the state that wasn't heavily affected by the storm but was already struggling with a weak economy.
The plywood plant in Gloster and the sawmill plant in Roxie closed about three years ago because of high production costs, said Georgia-Pacific's chief executive, A.D. "Pete" Correll. About 3,500 people already work at the company's 20 plants in Mississippi.
Correll said after Katrina struck Aug. 29, he called Barbour and asked if the company could help in Mississippi's recovery.
"I said, 'What do you really need?' And he said, 'We need jobs,'" Correll said.
Forestry specialists at Mississippi State University say Katrina destroyed or damaged up to three years' worth of harvest timber in the state. Bob Daniels, forestry specialist for the university's Extension Service, said the storm damaged $1.3 billion worth of timber on 1.2 million acres.
Laurie Grace, a forestry professor at Mississippi State, said tree farmers and industries have about a six- to nine-month window of opportunity to salvage most of the timber.
Correll said Georgia-Pacific will open 10 to 15 lumberyards to stack wood and keep it wet, which should keep it in usable condition for two to three years.
The state is providing job-training money and repairing roads, water systems and other infrastructure as incentives for Georgia-Pacific to reopen, said Gray Swoope, chief operating officer of the Mississippi Development Authority. Swoope said a cost for the incentive package was not immediately available.
Correll said hiring for the two plants will begin immediately and they could be in full operation by year's end. He said they now plan to keep them open permanently.
"We wouldn't start them up and bring them back and then in a couple of years say, 'Oh my goodness, we're closing,'" he said.
Shares of Georgia-Pacific rose 13 cents to close at $34.18 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.
Source: Associated Press