G-P exec: No. 1 priority is ‘talent’

RICHARD NELSON
editor@dibollfreepress.com

It took more than 18 months for Georgia-Pacific to finalize its purchase of the Temple-Inland Building Products from International Paper.
The $710 acquisition became official on Friday, July 19.
However, plans for operational integration are just now in the initial stages because the companies were still competitors, according to Mark Luetters, Georgia-Pacific’s executive vice president of Building Products.
Luetters visited the Temple-Inland corporate offices in Diboll on Thursday, July 25, spending time with employees, local government officials and media.
“To say we’ve been able to make long-term plans and basically understand the capabilities of the different organizations would be an exaggeration,” he said in response to questions posed by local media representatives.
“We’ve had a very limited scope of topics we’ve been able to talk about until last week Friday (July 19). We still have a lot of long-term planning to do,” Luetters said. “In the immediate term, we’ll have a lot of employees here. We’ll have a lot of employees in this office, and we’ll continue to be a big presence here in this area from both a manufacturing and a professional prospective.”
Several times during the meeting, Luetters referred to the “talent” Georgia-Pacific acquired.
“Our No. 1 priority is to maintain the talent that we were able to acquire in this acquisition. Temple-Inland is a lot more than just steel, land and buildings. The people here are fantastic. The assets that they’ve built are fantastic. They way they run them are fantastic,” he said. “We’ve very mindful of operating in a way that allows us to maintain not only the hard assets, but also the talent.”
When pressed for answers about the future of Diboll employees, Luetters was non-committal, but cautiously optimistic.
“You won’t see massive announcements coming out tomorrow or next week or the following week or anything along those lines. Is there going to be some coordination between Atlanta and Diboll? Absolutely. There is some overlap, but it’s not that big,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out how to manage those things. I’ve been very impressed with the talent of the people here that we’ve visited, and that positive feeling has grown.”
“We’ve invested in the last seven years over $2 billion in either acquisitions in the building products base or investments in our own assets around expansions, around better quality and around new technology,” said Luetters, who has also served as GP’s president of wood products and senior vice president of fiber and energy. “Part of that has to do with whether the economy and whether housing starts and things like that drive demand for building products, continue to increase or not. Our plans are to continue to operate the assets — they are fantastic assets — and look for ways to make sure we maintain the talent that’s in the organization.”
Georgia-Pacific now has 15 newly acquired manufacturing facilities across eight states, and those facilities will operate under the Georgia-Pacific banner.
“We’ll all be one company — Georgia-Pacific — just like our plants in Camden and Corrigan. There are areas where there’s not a lot of overlap — particle boards being an example where there’s a lot of branding that Temple has that I think we will continue to carry. There will be at least some recognition that it’s part of a Georgia-Pacific corporation.”
East Texas now is the biggest cluster of operating assets and employees Georgia-Pacific has in the country.
“Our two plywood plants in Camden and Corrigan are two of our best plywood plants in our system. The plants we have here in Diboll now are excellent plants, as well, so it’s critical for us. These are what I would call flagship assets. You’ve got people who want to be in the building products business,” he said. “You can expect to see a lot of investment in those assets. Surprises from the housing market notwithstanding, I think you will see increased production from these assets. We’ve got a big presence in the area in general, including Corrigan and Camden, and I think you will see us be a good corporate partner in the community.”