Georgia Pacific Corp. will shutter thermoforming facilities in Sandusky, Ohio, and Toronto by November, cutting more than 200 jobs.
The Atlanta-based consumer products firm announced the move Feb. 3 during a conference call to analysts and shareholders as it reported 2003 earnings. The move will affect about 206 employees, entirely at the Ohio site, officials said. That plant produces the ``Exclusively from Dixie'' line of products, including co-branded Coca-Cola cups by Dixie and Dixie Stoneware, as well as other Dixie branded plastic cups and lids.
Pete Correll, chairman and chief executive officer, called the move a ``reconfiguration of Dixie's plastics manufacturing capabilities ... better aligning our capacity to serve the marketplace.''
GP acquired the sites in 2000 when it bought thermoformer Fort James Corp., said GP spokeswoman Anna Umphress. The firm plans to consolidate two Toronto facilities into one and to sell the 300,000-square-foot site in Sandusky.
``We're planning to relocate machinery to other Dixie facilities,'' Umphress said in a Feb. 4 telephone interview.
The announcement came as a shock to the city of Sandusky, which recently granted tax abatements to Georgia Pacific.
``They had brought new lines into the plant,'' said Mike Will, an economic development specialist with the city. ``It was a plan to draw more production to that facility. It seemed like they were doing well. They were one of our largest factories.''
The company said the move does not diminish its focus on plastics. Officials said Dixie launched several new Exclusively from Dixie plastics products during 2003 for the food-service and retail markets, reflecting a growing focus on plastics. Those products included Adaptables to-go containers designed with interchangeable tops and bottoms; Liddles Portion Cups, a line of small containers to make filling, storing and serving sauces and dips easier; and DixieWare, a line of containers with a microwave vent that lets steam out and keeps splatters in, Correll said during the conference call.
But Correll also said the company's priorities are to reduce debt and strengthen the balance sheet.
``It's been a long time since we've felt this good about this company,'' he said. ``We're poised to see the fruits of three years of hard work, of integrating Fort James businesses, and 2004 should be a good year for this company.''
Plastics News estimated the company's thermoforming sales at $130 million for 2003, a decrease of $8 million from 2002.
Georgia Pacific operates thermoforming plants in Commerce, Calif.; Lexington, Ky.; and Easton, Pa. The firm also has injection molding plants in Los Angeles, Toronto and Leominster, Mass. Umphress said the injection molding operations will not be affected.