Camas mill charts steady course in rocky economy

Downtown Vancouver business Niche Wine & Art

 “We fluctuate with the economy,” Ferguson says. “Consumer demand is something that always affects us.”

Because Georgia-Pacific is a private company, it has been able to easily reinvest in its infrastructure to improve operations, and recently focused on safety systems, equipment reliability and product quality, according to Ferguson.

When it acquired the mill in 2000, restructuring led to the closing of some parts of the facility. The company sold off its timber business and now purchases fiber, which is brought to Camas for processing.

About 300 jobs were trimmed from the mill in 2006, but since then the workforce has held steady at about 500 workers. Technology has also played a huge role in the changes in the manufacturing industry, which Ferguson says requires workers with a completely different skill set than those of ten years ago.

Paper rolls“The Camas mill has done a really good job in being cost competitive when compared to other local and international competitors,” he says.

“The industry is globally competitive now. We’re no longer competing with the mill two towns over.”

As many as 30,000 cases of copier paper are produced at the Camas mill each day, in addition to a large share of the paper towels that roll out of those hands-free automatic dispensers you see in restrooms everywhere.

Right now, Georgia-Pacific has no significant growth plans in place for the Camas mill, but has spent a good deal of time and money educating the public about what the company does and taking pride in its involvement in the community.

GP has sponsored floats in the Camas Days parade held every summer, and plays an active role in the Bucket Brigade fundraiser helping local firefighters to buy life-saving equipment.

“We are a part of the local economic engine here,” says Ferguson. “Our employees live, work, and play in the community, and we provide good family wage jobs.”

Ferguson says that money ends up going back into the local economy and supporting smaller businesses, creating a benefit beyond that of its employees.

The company set out to be a “good neighbor” and put a program in place to take greater environmental stewardship over sensitive areas on its property, and along the Columbia River, rehabilitating wildlife habitats and replanting native vegetation.

Georgia-Pacific notes its environmental performance and energy conservation as one of its greatest achievements in 2012. After winning an award for Outstanding Site Energy Program in 2011, the company has seen further reductions in its energy consumption this past year.

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