Closure wipes out 3% of Butler Co. workforce

CHAPMAN, AL (WSFA) - A major economic blow to Butler County as WSFA 12 News confirms a forestry company will shut its doors. It's a story WSFA 12 News first told you about Monday night at 10:00.

Chapman Forest Products will cease operations amid an economic downturn, the company's owner confirmed.

The closure will put 263 people out of a job. While the numbers may seem small compared to the thousands of layoffs that large companies have announced, it still takes a huge chunk out of the local economy. Now, three percent of Butler County workers are on the verge of joblessness.

The workers knew the situation wasn't good in November, 2008 as Company CEO Phillip J. Smith had to lay off 70 employees. There was hope, however. At the time Smith said the layoffs would be temporary, only until the economy righted itself.

Smith owned the company less than a year, having just bought it from paper giant International Paper Co. The company is expected to close in less than a month.

"It has been a real pleasure working with and being part of the Chapman business family despite some of the worst times our industry has ever seen," Smith said in a written statement. "I wish the best for the Chapman employees and will keep them in my thoughts and prayers."

"We live and die by our tax revenue," said Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon, "and when you see those kind of jobs that have been there for such a long time making a pretty good's going to affect us." It wasn't the kind of news McLendon wanted to hear, especially as he is preparing the budget for the next fiscal year.

"It's going to be very devastating," said Mayor Middleton of nearby Georgiana. The workers, who were making on average of $12.50 per hour, won't have that money to spend in his city either.

There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

Two Korean companies, though not named, are believed to be interested in relocating some of their business to the Butler County area. Officials with inside details say the companies, combined, could save 150 jobs in the area.