Louisiana Pacific Corp. will cease production at its Athens OSB plant, located on U.S. 441 in Center, Oct. 1, the company has announced.
The move will result in layoffs for all but 27 of its 120 employees, according to Mary Cohn, manager of corporate affairs.
The company is calling the shutdown "an indefinite curtailment," leaving open the possibility that the plant could be put back into service if market conditions improve.
LP makes oriented strand board, widely used as flooring and decking in the residential construction market. The company opened here in 1989.
"We are taking it down indefinitely for market reasons," Cohn said. "In the current market there is not enough demand to keep the mill open."
Cohn explained that the equipment will remain at the site and that the company does not consider the curtailment to be a "permanent closing."
The 27 remaining employees will operate a line producing the company's TechShield Radiant Barrier, the application of a foil barrier on OSB. There will also be some personnel involved as the plant operates as a warehouse to serve LP customers in the Southeast, according to Cohn.
"Unfortunately, most of the people will be laid off," she said.
At the same time, the company is ceasing production at a Quebec OSB mill.
In a news release on its web site, OSB Executive Vice President Jeff Wagner said, "We are faced with one of the weakest housing markets in decades, which has substantially reduced the demand for OSB. In these conditions, we simply cannot justify running these mills. With these closures, we should improve our operating efficiencies while satisfying all the needs of our customers."
The Center plant produces 375 million square feet of OSB.
Employees found out about the layoffs and closings last Thursday and Friday. They will be offered severance pay according to their length of service with the company, Cohn said.
"They are welcome to apply for any other LP open jobs, but we do understand it's a hard time for folks."
LP has come under regular criticism as a producer of air emissions. Back in May, citizens complained during a public hearing in Nicholson that the company should not be given a permit to quadruple its emissions of formaldehyde. Some claimed LP's emissions were causing increases in illness in the surrounding areas. The EPD indicated it would approve the new permit.