Chesapeake Hardwood closes Hancock plant

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(Host) A Virginia-based company that makes hardwood veneer products is closing its Vermont mill, putting nearly 90 people out of work.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) Chesapeake Hardwood Products announced late last year that it would pull out of Vermont. At the time, the company said it would try to find a buyer for its facility in the central Vermont town of Hancock. Now Chesapeake says the plant will close. The company is the largest employer in the area, with 88 people working three shifts.

George Robson with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development says Chesapeake’s decision is part of a trend in the wood products industry.

(Robson) “This is normally a type of facility owned and operated by a national or international corporation. As things have shifted in the world marketplace, these companies have shifted the locations that they want to be in.”

(Zind) Chesapeake’s CEO said last year that the move is an effort to consolidate operations at its Virginia headquarters. But he also criticized Vermont’s regulatory and tax policies. Robson says ever since the announcement, the state has been working to find a buyer.

(Robson) “There’s other investors and people in the wood industry that we’re currently working with. So we do have at least strong hope that we’re going to find somebody that will reopen the facility within the very near future, hopefully even this summer.”

(Zind) The plant closing will also result in a loss of taxes for Hancock. More than 80% of the town is owned by the National Forest Service, and off the tax rolls. The Hancock facility has been in operation under various owners since the 1920s.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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