SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — The 250 people thrown out of work by last week’s fire at a Springfield plywood mill were told they should start making a plan for the next two years.
Chuck Wert, chief operating officer of Swanson Group, said at a Monday afternoon meeting with employees that it will likely take a couple of years to rebuild the mill, and it’s not certain whether it will be rebuilt.
“We do desire to rebuild the mill, so we have to evaluate our (insurance) policy coverage,” Wert said. “At the end of the day, some of this will be dictated by the policy limits and what that will allow us to do. Anything we do will take at least two years.”
Wert said investigators haven’t determined the exact cause of Thursday’s fire. Multiple explosions were reported, and some workers at the scene told reporters they think propane or glue tanks might have exploded.
Company officials offered Springfield Plywood and Veneer workers several options as they move past the shock of watching their workplace burn to the ground.
Swanson said some jobs at its mills in Glendale and Roseburg are held by temporary workers, and those could be turned into regular positions for the Springfield workers. The company might also do a mini expansion at those mills. Those efforts might add up to 100 jobs, Wert said.
Roseburg is 70 miles south of Springfield, and Glendale is 115 miles south.
Workers who aren’t able to relocate might be able to find work at other local wood products companies. Murphy Co., Seneca Sawmill, Timber Products Co. and Roseburg Forest Products have contacted Swanson Group about openings, Wert said.
“Everybody’s hurting and everybody’s wondering what they’re going to do,” Wert said. “We’re just trying to get options out there in front of everybody.”
Kristina Payne, executive director of Lane Workforce Partnership, said most of the Springfield mill workers should be eligible for state unemployment insurance. Several local companies, including financial institutions, have said they are offering assistance to millworkers.