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Official Philippi company will not be reopening

by Nora Edinger

REGIONAL EDITOR

PHILIPPI -- A wood-processing company that employed 43 workers at its peak will not reopen Sunday, the date a temporary shutdown had been scheduled to end.

Greg Jones of Philippi, one of three owners of West Virginia Hardwood Components Group, said employees have been officially laid off and he is trying to find a buyer for the downtown property.

He said a slowing American economy and competition with Chinese, Taiwanese and Mexican processors were a fatal financial blow for the two-year-old business.

"There is so much pressure from offshore products," Jones said. "They can afford to ship our (American) lumber over there, produce it and ship it back and still sell it for 25 percent less than we can."

Jones said some of the company's key contracts have also reduced or eliminated their orders for wood shapes used in the cabinetry, trim and furniture industry as the manufacturing sector has slowed down.

He said the business was too young and heavily in debt to stand.

"It's unfortunate," Jones said. "It was a very nice operation and we had some superb people."

One manager, Mark Carrico of Philippi, whose father Cliff is another co-owner, was named West Virginia Exporter of the Year for 2001 by the state Small Business Association in January for his efforts in selling the wood shapes internationally. The third owner is Chris Smith.

Chuck Ervin, director of the Barbour County Economic Development Authority, said the whole timber industry is suffering from the economic slowdown. He said it is hard to tell which, if any, area businesses are in trouble, however, because owners are slow to admit such things.

"I'll do everything I can do," Ervin said of redeveloping the group's plant.

Regional editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1403 or by e-mail at nedinger@exponent-telegram.com.

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