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St. Helens plant closing mid-2018; company officials cite needed upgrades and distribution obstacles as reason for closure; 130 employees affected

Armstrong World Industries Inc. is closing its facility in St. Helens by mid-2018, a press release from the ceiling tile manufacturer noted Tuesday. SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Armstrong World Industries, which manufactures ceiling tiles at its St. Helens plant, announced Tuesday that the plant would close by mid-2018.

"The market is changing and our customers are demanding higher end acoustical laminated products that St. Helens can't make without significant investment in the facility, and after looking closely at that route, it became clear it was cost prohibitive," the release continues. "St. Helens also served as a distribution center, however the location has always posed challenges as carriers and routes are limited and costs to transport are considerably higher than major hubs."

The release notes that employees who stay with the plant until its closure will receive severance packages, and indicates there are employment opportunities at other Armstrong World Industries plants for those with the necessary skills and who are willing to relocate.

"While closing a plant is always a very difficult decision, we believe this is in the best interest of our stakeholders. Over the coming months, until we close the plant in mid-2018, we will be working to transfer capacity to our other plants and to open a new distribution center in the Southwest which will be more easily accessible by our transportation carriers," the release continues.

A spokeswoman for the company confirmed there are 130 affected employees at the St. Helens plant. Roughly 100 employees make up the company's manufacturing workforce, while the other 30 are office or administrative positions, Jessica Johnson, a spokeswoman with AWI, confirmed Tuesday. Johnson declined to give salary information for the St. Helens employees

It's unclear how many of the AWI employees will be able to relocate to the company's Southwest plant. The exact location of the forthcomimng plant has yet to be announced.

Johnson said the company will be offering job placement sevices to those affected by the site closure.

Armstrong World Industries Inc. is a Pennsylvania-based corporation specializing in ceiling and floor products with 26 facilities globally.

Columbia County tax records show Armstrong is the ninth biggest tax payer in the county, contributing $402,677 in 2017.

ceiling and floor products with 26 facilities globally.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the number of affected employees at the St. Helens plant.

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