Randolph County's lumber industry had a rough year in 2011: a number of local layoffs and closings took place during those 12 months. Already in 2012, however, there has been a number of positive signs, including a spate of new hirings.
In early April, Armstrong World Industries, one of Randolph County's largest employers, recalled workers who were laid off last November, and hired new employees.
"We are recalling those employees we laid off and giving them the opportunity to return to work," Jennifer Johnson, senior manager of corporate communication for Armstrong, told The Inter-Mountain. "If all of those employees accept, we will still need to hire about 10. If some don't come back, it's possible we could hire more than 10."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Brad Johnson
Armstrong World Industries, one of Randolph County’s largest employers, recalled workers in April who were laid off last November, and hired new employees.
Armstrong laid off more than 100 employees from its Beverly facility in the fall, citing poor market conditions and a challenging economy.
According to the company's website, Armstrong World Industries Inc. is a global leader in the design and manufacture of floors, ceilings and cabinets.
In 2010, Armstrong's consolidated net sales totaled approximately $2.8 billion.
Based in Lancaster, Pa., Armstrong operates 31 plants in seven countries and has approximately 9,300 employees worldwide.
Also in April, Eastern Hardwoods Inc. announced it would hire a second shift of workers at its sawmill and lumberyard in Dailey, which opened in November 2011, officials said.
Eastern Hardwoods bought Coastal Lumber's assets after that company went out of business in August 2011.
"We feel pretty positive about the new hirings," Don Megert, plant manager of both the sawmill and the lumberyard in Dailey, told The Inter-Mountain.
"Initially, in November, we hired about 34 employees for the sawmill and 35 for the lumberyard," Megert said. "Last week, we hired a 'skeleton' second shift of 10 workers for the lumberyard.
"In June, we will be hiring 18 workers for a second shift for the sawmill, and will probably add five employees for the lumberyard at that time to even out the production flow."
More than 60 people lost their jobs last year when Coastal Lumber closed its Dailey operation. Eastern Hardwood's new hirings are an effort to bring the mill back to its former level of production, Megert said.
"When Coastal Lumber went down last August, the sawmill and the yard were each running two shifts," Megert said. "When we started up in November, it was too close to winter for us to get up to full speed, but that's what we're working on now."
On April 23, Eastern Hardwoods opened a sawmill in Hacker Valley in Webster County, with an initial hiring of 28 people, Megert said. The Hacker Valley sawmill also was previously owned by Coastal Lumber.
Eastern Hardwoods Inc. is a primary lumber manufacturing facility with secondary processing capabilities providing raw material to the cabinetry, flooring, millwork, furniture and hardwood distribution industries. The company buys standing timber and logs within the local and regional areas surrounding its operations.
Robbie Morris, executive director of the Randolph County Development Authority, expressed his belief that the recent hirings are "great news."
"I think it's a positive thing for the business climate in Randolph County," Morris said. "I believe the wood industry is coming back strong. (It's) not where we want it to be just yet, but it's coming back."