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Three Columbus-area employers are laying off 566 workers combined during the holidays

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Five people conducting interviews at the Career Fair held on Thursday, March 24 at the USCB Hilton Head Gateway Campus give a few tips on things to do -- and not to do -- when applying for a job.

It looks to be a tough Christmas and New Year for several hundred workers and their families in the Columbus area, with three companies eliminating a combined 566 people between mid-December and Jan. 1.

Layoff and closure notices filed with the Georgia Department of Labor show Georgia-Pacific Wood Products LLC is laying off 321 employees at its plywood plant in Warm Springs, Ga., a property that is being closed after a nearly 40-year run in the Meriwether County community north of Columbus.

Another 83 workers with XPO Logistics in the Midland area of Columbus are being cut as of Dec. 31, according to the state, while Aptim Federal Services is laying off 152 staffers at Fort Benning on Jan. 1.

The official layoff date for employees of Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific in Warm Springs is Dec. 17, although company spokesman Rick Kimble said the final day of operations is a bit fuzzy as the plywood plant winds down and runs through final inventory. It has operated since 1975.

“One of the reasons it kind of struggled is that it was a smaller plant,” said Kimble, confirming the workers there will be paid through mid-January and keep their benefits through the end of that month. A job fair was scheduled Thursday at the plant, with Georgia-Pacific recruiters expected to be there and other local employers invited.

Kimble said there are no plans at the moment to sell the property or equipment at 5875 Chipley Highway in Warm Springs. That’s because there is a possibility it might be retooled for another type of operation. He pointed to a plywood mill that closed in Taladega, Ala., a few years ago, but reopened this year.

“We basically tore everything down from the plywood (operation) and came back as a lumber mill because the dynamics in the marketplace for lumber are different now than they are for plywood,” he said. “Right now there’s a pretty strong demand and market for lumber.”

As for XPO Logistics, it’s unclear what intentions the company has for Columbus moving forward as it eliminates 83 workers at its 7775 Chattsworth Road location, which is inside Muscogee Technology Park just off U.S. Hwy. 80. Calls and emails seeking comment from the company were not returned.

Greenwich, Conn.-based XPO Logistics, which handles expedited freight and transportation needs for other companies, is believed to have been connected locally to NCR Corp., with it doing business with the major company.

Atlanta-based NCR, an automated teller machine and self-service checkout system manufacturer, stunned the city this year when it suddenly announced it was closing two plants in Columbus, one at Corporate Ridge Business Park, the other at Muscogee Technology Park. Those 1,039 jobs, which included staffing agency employees, are now gone as well. The work done locally was outsourced to a Florida-based firm.

At Fort Benning, with much of the post located in Chattahoochee County, Aptim Federal Services has listed Jan. 1 as the layoff date for 152 workers on the installation known as the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence. The company, which did not respond to emails, includes infrastructure support at U.S. military bases among its services.

Aptim ultimately is owned by New York.-based Veritas Capital, a private equity firm that purchased CB&I’s Capital Services business in 2017, then rebranded it to Aptim. The company serves several markets, including power, industrial, oil and gas, commercial and government.

Notices filed with the Georgia Department of Labor show that Aptim laid off 175 workers at the end November last year, while another Fort Benning infrastructure support company called Tiya laid off 264 employees at the same time.

The job cuts come with the unemployment rate in the Columbus metro area at 4.3 percent in October, the latest figure released by the labor department. The jobless rate in Meriwether County, which is located north of Harris County and east of Troup County, is 4.6 percent.