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Chapman Forest to layoff 70

Citing the poor condition of the national economy, Chapman Forest Products announced Monday the company would lay off approximately 70 of its 325 employees immediately.

The lay off is scheduled to last from six to 12 months, according to a released statement.

“As a large employer in Butler County the impact will hopefully be minimal compared to a permanent shutdown that would be looming in the future if layoffs were not pursued at this time,” according to Philip J. Smith, CEO and Owner of Chapman Forest Products, Inc. “Our goal is to be as lean as possible in these difficult times and reduce production levels to current market demand.”

Smith said he told all employees that the layoffs would be temporary. The drastic decline of new home construction in 2008 has also had a negative impact on the lumber industry.

“I’m comforted by the fact that it was just 70 employees,” said Ricky McLaney, Director of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development. “I know it’s something they (CFP) didn’t want to face, but they had to take action t stabilize because the lumber industry is really hurting right now.”

Chapman Forest Products is a manufacturer of Southern Yellow Pine lumber and plywood products. The mill in Chapman was purchased in January 2008 from International Paper Corporation.

Smith said Smith Companies, which is a separate entity from Chapman Forest Products, has not been adversely affected by the current economy and production levels would remain the same.

In October, Hyundai announced it would shutdown for 11 days, a production cut which has trickled down to its suppliers in central Alabama.

“It’s sort of like ‘feast or famine’ with the Hyundai workers,” said McLaney. “They were working 55 hours a week and now they’ve been cut back to less hours. Of course they like the time off, but they miss the money. Until something breaks in the credit market where people can start borrowing to buy cars again, this is what you’re going to see.”

The only bright spot, said McLaney, is that oil continues to fall, bringing the price per gallon of gasoline down with it. Oil fell to $59 per barrel in trading on Tuesday morning.

“That’s particularly good news for rural areas like Butler County, because gasoline has such a big impact on our everyday lives,” he said.