Central Oregon

Mill layoffs deal big blow to Prineville economy

Community rallying to help those affected

Prineville hit hard by mill layoffs

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Prineville's economy was built around the timber industry. At the turn of the last century, there were five mills. After Tuesday's layoffs at Woodgrain Millwork, there's only one, unless something changes in coming weeks.

In the early 1900s, most people in Prineville worked at lumber mills.

"That's where people made their living. And now, so many people have had to leave and move out," Lynn Lafky, who has lived in Prineville for 21 years, said Wednesday.

It's becoming a fatal pattern for the timber industry. The latest cutback at Woodgrain Millwork will have a big impact on the city and Crook County, where it's been the third-largest employer, with over 200 jobs.

"The wood products industry is still a large employer here, and really a concentration of employment you don't see in many other places in the country," said Roger Lee, executive director of Economic Development for Central Oregon.

The EDCO official said they are hopeful they can work with the company to keep the jobs here.

"We expect to get together with the company in the next week or so and see what can be done," Lee said.

However as of Wednesday morning, the company had not returned EDCO's calls.

"Where are they going and what are they going to do?" Lafky said.

Some workers have already started applying for new jobs.

"It affects people's live -- it's horrible," Lafky said.

If they're looking for mill work, they might have to look outside of Prineville.

"Yep, it's just one mill," Lafky said.

There's a bit of silver lining to the new, dark cloud: In a season of giving, the loss is bringing the community together.

Grocery Outlet in Prineville, for example, is collecting donations for the families affected by the layoffs. Calvary Baptist Church is also involved, accepting food and money for gift certificates

"We're coming into Christmas, it's a hard time. Thanksgiving is tomorrow -- it's just a really hard time for these families to be out of work," said Brandon Shaver, Grocery Outlet manager. "It's unfortunate."

They have already given out some gift certificates to families in need. If you want to help, you can visit the Grocery Outlet or drop off food at Calvary Baptist Church.

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