Anderson-Tully Co. lays off 68 workers in reorganization’

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 29, 2002

[04/29/02]About 68 employees at the Anderson-Tully Co. veneer mill have been discharged in what a company representative called a reorganization.

Employees at the plant on North Washington Street that produces hardwood flooring were told they were being let go because of a lack of work. The veneer mill is new, but Anderson-Tully has had other hardwood lumber operations in Vicksburg more than a century.

Kenny Jackson, a saw operator at the veneer mill, said he was shocked when he got the news.

“It was a blind thing. It hurt a lot of people,” Jackson said. “Everybody says Anderson-Tully is the place to work, but I guess not.”

Jackson said company officials held a meeting with employees at the end of their shift around 3 p.m. Friday to inform them that they were being laid off immediately. He also received a letter in the mail Saturday that stated that the layoffs would be permanent.

In that letter, company representatives wrote that the reduction was due to current economic complexities. There is no mention of any severance pay, but there is reference to an employee assistance program.

“People have got families and they didn’t give us any warning,” he said.

Ben Woods, manager of human resources at Anderson-Tully, said the total number of employees at the mill near the entrance to E.W. Haining Industrial Center has been reduced from about 225 to 150 in the last year.

“We’re just reorganizing our product line, and certain departments were not needed,” Woods said.

He said the employee-assistance program works through local ministries to help provide counseling. Unemployment benefits should be available through the Mississippi Employment Security Commission.

In 2000, the Memphis-based hardwood lumber company announced a $22 million to $25 million expansion to its hardwood veneer mill. The expansion was expected to create as many as 350 new jobs, according to statements made in quest of grants and tax exemptions.

Anderson-Tully also received financial support from Warren County and a Community Development Block Grant for the 175,000-square-foot expansion.

The company was granted a tax exemption on the expansion and received a $2 million bond issue under the Mississippi Business Investment Act. The county also received a $500,000 grant to add to $400,000 from the company to build a new access road to the plant.

Woods said the company may be adding new positions this summer. He said there are no plans for any more layoffs.

The company’s facility has been in Vicksburg for 112 years and manages 300,000 acres of timber along the Mississippi River to turn into hardwood flooring for national distribution.

Last month, Exide Technologies, formerly GNB Batteries, announced it will close its Vicksburg plant on May 10 as part of a restructuring of the company. The facility on the Vicksburg Harbor produces battery covers for automobile and marine batteries and employs 114.

Separately, Vicksburg Chemical laid off about 65 people after Cedar Chemical Corporation based in Memphis, the parent of Vicksburg Chemical, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Kmart corporation also listed the Vicksburg store among the 284 the retailer will close. The store on Pemberton Square Boulevard employs about 70 people.

The jobless rate in Warren County rose slightly last month, according to figures released last week by the Mississippi Employment Security Commission. In March, 5.1 percent of the labor force was without jobs compared to 4.6 percent in February.

New jobs are expected to be coming to the area by the summer with the opening of CalsonicKansei Mississippi in May or June, which will employ about 119 people, and Yorozu Automotive Mississippi, to employ about 120, in 2003. Both are at the Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex at Flowers and will be suppliers for the Nissan plant to open in Madison.