Anderson-Tully ends operations at City Front
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Anderson-Tully Company’s Mill D became a casualty of both a local expansion and a national economic downturn today, permanently ceasing operations after nearly 80 years as a fixture on City Front near Levee Street.
Fifty-five employees, or about 15 percent of Anderson-Tully’s Vicksburg work force, were laid off as a result of the closure. The lumber company will absorb a significant portion of Mill D’s operations at its other Vicksburg facility, which recently underwent an $8 million upgrade, on North Washington Street near Waltersville.
Richard Wilkerson, Anderson-Tully’s executive vice president, said the property on which Mill D now stands will be used indefinitely by the company for storage of timber off-loaded from barges on the adjacent Yazoo Diversion Canal. The logs will be taken by truck to the Waltersville plant, Mill K, for processing, he said.
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Wilkerson attributed Anderson Tully’s decision to shut down Mill D to an unprecedented slump in demand for wood products related to large decreases in construction of new homes.
“It’s only gotten worse” since the plans to close Mill D were announced in October, he said. “Since 2005, domestic hardwood production is off 50 percent.” According to Wilkerson, companies that usually fill their inventories with orders from Anderson-Tully at the end of the year are holding off this December.
Mill D will not reopen, though, even if the economy improves. “It’s a good plant, but it’s also on old one,” Wilkerson said. “It’s not as efficient as we need it to be.”
Efficiency will be served, Wilkerson said, by processing all wood at the recently upgraded Mill K. He said the capital improvements at that plant, which included the implementation of computer technology at every level of lumber production, will improve Mill K’s yields and increase its capacity by 30 percent.
Sammy Wilkerson, a supervisor at Mill D who is of no relation to Richard Wilkerson, said that he worked a week at Mill K and was “amazed” by the difference between the two plants. Mill D has a machine called an edger that removes bark from the sides of six boards per minute, he said, whereas the same machine at Mill K operates at a speed of 26 boards per minute.
Sammy Wilkerson, who will move to the North Washington Street facility, said that he wishes that all 55 of the laid-off workers were moving to Mill K with him.
“I put those guys on our prayer list at church,” he said on Monday night, as workers around him prepared Mill D for its shutdown. “I’m going to miss them.”
Laid-off employees interviewed at Mill D on Monday night were going in different directions.
Kevin Lawrence said he’s planning to attend truck-driving school. Joseph Marshall Jr., a 20-year veteran of Anderson-Tully, is contemplating retirement.
Richard Wilkerson said that Anderson-Tully has been working since October with various state and local agencies to help those laid off from Mill D secure unemployment benefits and find new jobs. He said that the laid-off workers were given a week off with pay earlier this month to look for new employment.
Richard Wilkerson added that the upgrades at Mill K have positioned Anderson-Tully to remain a major employer in Vicksburg. The company moved to Vicksburg shortly after being created as a manufacturer of vegetable crates in Benton Harbor, Mich., in 1889.
“Our intent is certainly not to go anywhere,” Richard Wilkerson said. “It would be tough to leave, given how long we’ve been here.”
Contact Ben Bryant at email@example.com.