Two Years Later, Hawthorne Still Hasn’t Recovered From Plywood Mill Shutdown

By on October 16th, 2013
Dianne's Old Time Barbecue, 6707 SE Hwy 301, in Hawthorne.

Sarah Daly / WUFT News

Dianne's Old Time Barbecue, 6707 SE Hwy 301 in Hawthorne, still sees slow business two years after a local plywood mill shut down.

The residents and businesses of Hawthorne are still experiencing economic hardship two years after a plywood mill shut down.

The Putnam County plywood mill closed in October 2011 and cost 400 people their jobs — most of them from Hawthorne.

Hawthorne Mayor Matt Surrency said the mill closing had a negative impact on many Hawthorne businesses, including Dianne’s Old Time Barbeque.

Surrency eats at the family-owned restaurant with his family almost every Sunday. It’s during the workweek that he sees how business have slowed down due to a lack of mill workers and truck drivers.

Restaurant owner Dianne Tillman said the restaurant lost 8 percent of sales when the mill closed.

“They brought that little punch to our community,” Tillman said.

There were 400 jobs lost directly, Surrency said, but there are a lot more that were impacted indirectly.

He said many mill workers are having trouble finding jobs after working at Georgia-Pacific for decades.

“The last time they filled out a job application it was either just by word of mouth or just on a piece of paper,” Surrency said. “They hadn’t done anything on the computer like they do nowadays.”

Janice Beckham worked for Georgia-Pacific for 25 years.

She planned to work for five more years, but instead lost both her and her retired husband’s health insurance when the mill shut down.

“It impacted us greatly,” Beckham said.

Tammy Scott, a customer service representative at Hawthorne Insurance, said her husband worked at Georgia-Pacific for 11 years before he had to find another job.

Scott said her husband now works at Sandvick Mining in Alachua, but has taken a $3 or $4 pay cut.

They are also spending an extra $200 in gas to get him to and from work.

“It’s been two years,” Scott said. “It’s still hard.”

Donna Boles, vice president of the Hawthorne Chamber of Commerce, said many businesses have been hurting and closing over the past two years, including car washes, barbershops and convenience stores.

But residents of Hawthorne, including Surrency, have heard rumor of the mill possibly reopening.

Georgia-Pacific representatives said the mill closed because of market conditions and did not confirm or deny the reopening of the mill.

Still, residents remain positive.

“We’re hoping they come back,” Tillman said. “And soon.”

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