Following an earlier announcement, Interfor began laying off 130 of 150 employees at its Gilchrist, Ore. sawmill in late June. Company officials cited difficulties with the coronavirus issue and overall market conditions as reasons for the layoffs. The announcement doesn’t bode well for the mill’s future: Interfor operates three other mills in the Pacific Northwest that suffered curtailments during the worst of the pandemic slowdown but have since returned to full capacity. Interfor officials noted there was no employee recall date associated with the Gilchrist announcement and operating conditions there will be reviewed “on an ongoing basis.” The mill produces 75MMBF annually of mostly high-grade 1 in. pine boards.
The facility is a legendary mill operation in the state, founded by the sawmilling Gilchrist family of Laurel, Miss., who moved to Oregon in the 1930s and established the town of Gilchrist. They started the sawmill in 1939, creating a fully-owned company town. The family was noted for its benevolence toward workers, and the town included parks, a theater and the first enclosed shopping mall west of the Mississippi, with homes that would “pass the scrutiny of the workers’ wives,” according to a historical account. The Gilchrist family sold the mill and town to Crown Pacific in 1991, and after Crown went bankrupt and closed the mill in 2003, Interfor acquired and revived it in 2006.
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