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ONSLOW MILL TO CLOSE; 275 WILL LOSE JOBS

ONSLOW MILL TO CLOSE; 275 WILL LOSE JOBS

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Onslow County's economy was dealt another blow Wednesday when Weyerhaeuser Co. announced that it will close its plywood mill on U.S. 17 in 60 days, putting 275 people out of work.

Weyerhaeuser spokesman Keith Hundley said the company will try to place workers in jobs at other Weyerhaeuser facilities unaffected by the closure.Economic observers said many workers likely will have difficulty finding jobs because Onslow County has a limited number of industries, and the deployment of thousands of area military personnel to the Persian Gulf greatly has reduced the need to fill positions in the service industry.

Hundley said the decision to close the mill was based on its age, the high cost of required modernization and raw material expenses.

``Our employees have made a strong effort to make it work,' he said. ``We have come to this conclusion that there is no reasonable capital spending and improvement plan which we could justify that would make Jacksonville fully competitive in the plywood market.'

Weyerhaeuser notified employees this spring that it was considering the closure, Hundley said. Though employees were aware of the probable closure, Wednesday's announcement was upsetting, said George McAllister, president of the International Woodworkers Association's local chapter, which has about 180 members at the mill.

McAllister, who has worked at the mill for 21 years, said employees know hard times are ahead, but they are maintaining a positive attitude and offering each other support.

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