Georgia-Pacific is making a $70 million investment in its Gurdon site, aimed at upgrading its plywood and lumber operations. The Atlanta-based paper company is also committing $100,000 to install a multi-use playing field for local schools.
Company officials say that the investment will be used to increase the Gurdon lumber mill’s “efficiency and capacity” in order to sustain the current workforce. There are more than 700 jobs generated by the two facilities in the area.
Specifically, the investment will be used to install an advanced merchandiser that will determine the best end-product use, as well as install panel assembly stations with scanning systems and a new power plant. There will also be new software and security enhancements.
“We are making state of the art improvements that will transform our Gurdon facilities, greatly improving the utilization of raw materials and overall operating efficiencies, making jobs more meaningful, and turning us into an even stronger competitor,” Mike White, Western Regional Operations Manager, said in a statement.
The work on the improvement projects is scheduled to be completed by 2020.
According to Arkansas State University associate professor of economics Dr. Gauri Guha, the investment is projected to have a $169 million economic impact in the southern Arkansas region.
The playing field is designed to expand social skills for students in the Gurdon area. Georgia-Pacific officials say that the field “provides a foundation for a solid community” in the region.
“The Gurdon schools have been such a cooperative, helpful and successful partner in ensuring we have the talented people we need,” Carrie Wilkins, Regional Human Resources for GP’s Plywood and Lumber divisions, says. “We want and need them to continue to be successful, so our aim is to contribute meaningfully to our schools every year.”
This announcement is a bright spot for the lumber industry in south Arkansas, which has seen several closings in recent months.
Earlier this year, Georgia-Pacific announced that the company would be shutting down part of its operations in Crossett. The site’s bleached board operations, as well as its extrusion plant, woodyard, pulp mill and part of the energy complexare set to be shut down by October. This closing is expected to eliminate 530 jobs at the facility.
In addition, a saw mill in El Dorado was indefinitely closed down in August. Conifex Timber put the El Dorado site in “indefinite curtailment,” which will impact more than 90 jobs.