By Joseph Ditzler

The Bulletin

Woodgrain Millwork, the third-largest employer in Crook County, announced Tuesday it would lay off more than 200 workers at its Prineville facility, a move that started when a roof collapsed under the weight of the midmonth snowfall.

According to a memo from Woodgrain Millwork Vice President Greg Easton forwarded to The Bulletin by a Woodgrain vendor, “the company has decided to cease many of the operations at the Prineville location for the foreseeable future. A significant portion of the workforce will be affected in the coming weeks.”

Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe said she and City Manager Steven Forrester learned of the job cuts Monday in a meeting with Easton and the plant manager. She said the company, which has its headquarters in Fruitland, Idaho, planned to lay off about 130 Prineville employees Tuesday and keep 85 workers through December to deal with cleanup at the manufacturing plant.

Another 36 full-time jobs would remain permanently in a pellet mill and an interior trim-molding facility unaffected by the roof collapse, she said. The company occupies 57 acres at N. Main Street and NE Peters Road in Prineville.

“They said they would do everything in their power to assist their employees,” Roppe said. “It’s going to be a difficult announcement for the employees to receive at this time of the year. My heart goes out to them.”

Easton in his memo wrote that the company would offer employment elsewhere to affected employees, along with relocation assistance.

Company officials did not return phone calls Tuesday afternoon seeking comment. Crook County Judge Mike McCabe said the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council has asked for a federal grant to help retrain laid-off Woodgrain workers. State Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, said he planned to find out what the state could do, if anything, to keep the Woodgrain Millwork operation alive in Prineville.

Forrester, who served as general manager of the Prineville plant from 1998 to 2008 under two different owners, called the announcement “a tough punch to the gut.”

“It is very, very sad news,” he said. “It’s going to make it difficult for a number of families employed there, as well as businesses that count on that operation.”

Forrester said he understood the damage done to the plant by the collapsed roof rendered unusable the front end of the manufacturing line, where raw lumber is ripped and cut for processing further on. The plant makes doors and windows, according to the company website.

The ruined machinery basically brought the manufacturing process to a halt; in his opinion, replacing it would prove expensive and time-consuming, Forrester said.

Roppe and Forrester both described Woodgrain Millwork as a good community partner that continually invested in its plant and operation.

Forrester said the city would also look for incentives that may encourage Woodgrain to eventually rebuild the damaged plant.

The loss of jobs announced Tuesday wipes out the 130 new jobs gained over the past year in Crook County, according to the Central Oregon unemployment report for October released Monday by the state Employment Department. Economic Development for Central Oregon ranked Woodgrain Millwork, with 237 employees in August, as Crook County’s third-largest employer.

With 1,725 employees worldwide, Woodgrain bills itself as one of the world’s largest millwork companies.

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

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