By Joseph McCain
The Winston County Journal
Winston Plywood and Veneer had planned on celebrating an opening and hiring but the April 28 tornado changes those plans but not the company’s commitment to Winston County.
Atlas Holdings and Wood Resources merged with Natron Wood Products in March and had been preparing to make the announcement and open the new factory, Winston Plywood and Veneer, when the April 28 tornado destroyed the facility.
Winston Plywood and Veneer President and General Manager Dr. Richard F. Baldwin noted that the company had already gotten a strategic plan to move forward.
“We have a rough outline for moving forward in three stages,” said Baldwin. “We are back to square one but when you get knocked down, you get back up and get to work.”
Baldwin added the company was committed to Winston County because everyone has ben so welcoming and Mayor Will Hill and all the officials have been so helpful and made everyone feel comfortable.
“I have never had a flat to the ground company and it is pretty humbling,” said Baldwin. “We are moving forward.”
The clean-up process has begun on the facility with the city contracting out the cleanup. The city has also put out bids for the design of the new facility.
City leaders, Baldwin and others have working with ECCC and others to start planning for training a workforce once the timeline for hiring is in place.
Baldwin noted that they are moving forward as quickly as possible and are focused on getting the job done but also want it done in the best possible way.
He also added that the tornado only strengthened the commitment to Winston County.
“When I arrived after the tornado and saw Mayor Hill working and his wife working alongside, I know Winston County had the kind of people that will do what it takes to get the work done. Every company and community needs those type of people.”
The company is planning the rebuilding and design stages along with hiring as soon as possible. The city recently got a $10 million insurance check on the city owned building and is seeking architects and engineers to design the new project, which eventually will employ 200 to 400 persons.
Helping others in the county
Baldwin knew the planned wood facility was gone when he saw it on the news but his immediate thoughts were on how he could help the community.
So he called Kurt Liebich with the parent company Atlas Holdings and Wood Resources to develop an idea to help. Liebich immediately reached out to all the Altas Holdings’ companies and employees.
Liebich noted that once he explained the company’s commitment to Winston County and the future of its facility and future employees that all associates and companies their 12,000 employees began a fundraising effort.
Baldwin and Liebich presented the results of that fundraising effort to Winston Strong (The Winston County Disaster Relief Fund) last week with two checks: one for $72,989.36 and another for $1,500.
Liebich explained the fundraising was ongoing and that the $1,500 was raised after the initial $72,989.36 had already been printed.
“We are committed to this community and want it to rebuild better,” said Liebich.
Robert Taylor of the Winston Strong committee thanked the company representatives and all the employees worldwide for their help.
“We appreciate it and everyone has really come together to help us rebuild our community,” said Taylor who lost his home in the tornado.
With the Winston Plywood and Veneer donation of over $73,000, Taylor Winston Strong is moving along quite quickly and will be investing funds in materials this week to help begin the rebuilding process for some homeowners.
Mike Dowd of Winston Strong noted the group is focusing on helping the elderly, uninsured, underinsured and others. He noted that the group has four case managers working on persons’ needs and were having community events to outreach to those in need.
“We have to help 100 percent of the people who need help after the devastating tornado,” said Dowd. “We are stepping up to rebuild Winston County.”
Both Liebich and Baldwin noted that the cleanup the community had already accomplished in a short time was surprising yet went back to the get the job done attitude.