Sawmill cutting shift; 80 employees left jobless

VICKSBURG — Anderson-Tully Company is shutting down a second shift at its Vicksburg sawmill and is laying off 80 employees by Jan. 4.

The company tells the Vicksburg Post the move has been in the works for two months because of a depressed housing market.

“This is a core business decision to right-size production to match market demand,” company president Richard Wilkerson said in a statement.

Instead of two eight-hour shifts during the work week, the facility will go to a single 10-hour shift at least five days a week. Workers on the second shift will receive severance pay and benefits based on tenure, the company said.

After the layoffs, Anderson-Tully will have fewer than 200 workers.

Anderson-Tully has had operations in Vicksburg since 1889 and manages 300,000 acres of timber along the Mississippi River. It turns that timber into hardwood flooring for national distribution.

Initial talks concerning layoffs began with the Teamsters Local 891 in September, said Mike Myrick, director of human resources and risk management.

Myrick said officials in Vicksburg and Warren County were informed of the layoffs last month.

In the statement, Wilkerson said the company held off the decision “as long as possible, considering the impact to employees and their families.”

“Anderson-Tully is one of the few sawmills running two shifts, and one of the last to make any reductions,” he said.

In 2008, the lumber producer closed another mill in Vicksburg, citing the housing market collapse and bad economy. Since then, improvements to the protective levee system built during the Mississippi River Flood of 2011 and other infrastructure investment has exceeded $10 million.

Housing starts jumped 15 percent in September, to 872,000, and jumped an additional 3.6 percent in October, to 894,000, the highest since July 2008, according to the Commerce Department.

The Anderson-Tully statement said the company’s September figures were only “about 40 percent of the peak year of 2005.”

Eastern U.S. hardwood production is down 35 percent since 2006 and “not likely to return to those levels,” while hardwood lumber prices are down 25 percent over the same period, the company said.

 

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