Woodgrain grants help heal the layoff wounds

When Woodgrain Millwork announced last November the layoffs of more than 200 employees, the news sent shockwaves through the community.

Just as many economic reports for Crook County had begun to show job growth and declined unemployment, a fluke weather event put a huge dent in the gains the community had made over the past year.

City and county officials and citizen organizations banded together to do what they could to help the displaced workers. Events that helped connect them with employment opportunities and health insurance took place during the subsequent month, and city and county government brainstormed ways to help Woodgrain reopen its plant, and if not, find another company willing to repair the facility and reopen it.

After the initial rush of help, things seemingly got quiet as news about Woodgrain employees died down during the spring months. This didn’t mean that people had stopped trying to help, and that fact was brought to light recently when Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council announced a nearly $500,000 grant to help displace Woodgrain workers.

The National Emergency Grant is designed to not only provide workers training in new fields, but support individuals as they pursue that training whether it is in college or a trade school. If recent testimonials given to the Central Oregonian from former Woodgrain employees are any indication, the grant made a big difference in the lives of people who had struggled since the majority of the plant closed.

One gentleman was able to attend trucking school and received help paying for transportation expenses and first month’s rent once he landed a trucking job. A young woman utilized the grant funding to enroll in college. She is now hoping to pursue a career in nursing. Without the grant, she would have struggled to afford college due to the expense of her monthly bills.

Such stories are encouraging and show the resolve of the community and its ability to tap into resources from a variety of places.

As workers get back on their feet, we hope to see the Woodgrain plant do the same and reopen under its current ownership or a new company. Wood products manufacturing has historically brought many jobs to Crook County, and it would be a shame to not see them return.

We encourage local officials to continue efforts to reopen the plant and restore a substantial source of local jobs.

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