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84 Lumber closes store in Dawson

Economy also affecting other local businesses

POSTED: November 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Thirteen employees at the Dawson County 84 Lumber location were offered a transfer or lost their jobs when the lumberyard closed Oct. 25.

  

The company announced last month that the company would consolidate the services of its six metro Atlanta stores into four locations.

  

The decision by 84 Lumber was the latest dose of economic bad news for Dawson County, which until this fall had managed to weather the economic downturn.

  

And with the local unemployment level at nearly 6 percent, the changing economy appears to be catching up to the county’s way of life.

  

“A number of local construction and service companies have laid off workers, and there are indications that several more firms are looking at ways to survive the current economic downturn,” said Charlie Auvermann, executive director of the Development Authority of Dawson County.

  

“All of these events should be a concern to everyone in the county,” he said. “Layoffs and closures affect other businesses, stores, the local tax base and eventually how we all live.”

  

The 84 Lumber Dawsonville closing was due in part to the economy, company spokeswoman Robyn Hall said, but the area’s slow home-building market was not the sole basis for the decision.

  

Professional builders deal primarily with outside sales reps, have supplies delivered to their construction sites and never have to enter the stores, Hall said.

  

“We can still provide the same level of service with the four stores,” she said Friday.

  

The company also closed its Newnan lumberyard last month.

  

The housing market in Dawson County, as across the state and nation, has taken a major hit in recent months.

  

“We’ve got a tough stretch ahead of us,” said Rory Cunningham, president of the Dawson County Homebuilders Association.

  

Problems in the banking industry have left builders unable to find lenders to move forward with projects.

  

“With spec housing loans, virtually no bank will lend,” Cunningham said. “You have to have a pretty heavy hitter client to get a loan for construction. That hurts us.”

  

It also hurts construction workers, many of whom are out of work and waiting for the next job.

  

“Until the (housing) inventory out there is bought up, and we see what happens with this presidential election, we’re not going to see an improvement in probably the next 12 months,” he said.

  

Other areas of the local economy are beginning to feel the pinch as well.

Nordson Corporation, one of Dawson County’s largest employers, recently underwent a massive early retirement process and transferred several local operations to the Johns Creek area, according to Yolanda Plass, with the company’s human resources department.

  

Nordson manufactures dispensing equipment used to apply adhesives, sealants and coating to a broad range of consumer and industrial products.

Jim Jaye, director of communications at Nordson’s Ohio headquarters, could not confirm the number of employees at the Dawsonville location that were released.

  

He did say, however, that about 10 percent of the company’s Atlanta-based work force, which includes three facilities, was offered a voluntary retirement option.

  

Additional layoffs followed, though Jaye said the move was not a direct result of the economic downswing, but rather a measure Nordson had been looking into for a while.

  

He did say it was typical practice to relocate offices such as customer service, engineers and machinists to one location, while keeping production operations intact.

  

The more local businesses that close, Auvermann said, “The more citizens have to pay a greater share of the taxes, at a time when the residents cannot afford to take on a greater tax burden.”

  

In anticipation of better times, several local companies have used the downturn to gear up and expand.

  

“We (the development authority) have supported those efforts and will continue to do so,” Auvermann said. “There are a number of local companies that are taking advantage of these times and everyone should support their efforts to remain in our county, and grow in our county,” he said.

  

“People need to understand that the economy will not suddenly get better overnight. It will improve over time,” Auvermann said.

 

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