Wilton Simpson calls for investors to buy closing Perry mill

The Agriculture Commissioner said Georgia-Pacific won't reverse the decision but is willing to sell.

Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson said a timber business in Perry can’t avoid closure.

However, the owners of the Georgia-Pacific Foley Cellulose Facility said they would sell the business to someone else.

“While Georgia-Pacific cannot make the numbers work for their corporation, they are willing sellers,” Simpson said. “As a state leader, I would welcome another investor or company to come in and take over operations. There are many economic incentives available, and Florida has an excellent climate for business. I challenge anyone to find harder working people than those in Taylor and surrounding counties.”

Georgia-Pacific on Monday informed employees and the public of plans to close the mill.

“Various factors influenced this difficult decision,” reads a news release. “Ultimately, GP does not believe that the mill can competitively serve its customers in the long term despite the significant investments and commitment by GP Cellulose since the site was acquired in 2013.”

The closure means the loss of 525 jobs in the small community.

Owners called the decision a “strategic decision” made before Hurricane Idalia made landfall in the Big Bend, devastating many businesses and homeowners in the rural region.

Simpson, a Trilby Republican, said the state had no advance warning on the mill closure.

“I spoke with top executives at Georgia-Pacific to discuss the devastating decision to close the Foley Cellulose Facility in Taylor County. While there is never a good time to lose a major employer, particularly in a rural county, this news could not come at a worse time for families devastated by Hurricane Idalia,” Simpson said.

But Simpson warned the decision is permanent.

“The decision is final and cannot be reversed,” he said. “We were not informed in advance, but I can confirm that there were no state laws, regulations, or economic conditions within state control that contributed to the shutdown. According to their leadership, the macroeconomic conditions resulted in another business casualty.”

U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn has raised concerns about the timber industry in the Big Bend as Congress debates the Farm Bill. He slammed the decision to close the facility.

“This closure impacts thousands of my constituents following a devastating hurricane, a time when communities need reliability and stability the most,” the Panama City Republican said. “What’s even more concerning is that Georgia-Pacific neglected to give local leaders ample notice so we can support Taylor County through this difficult time. They ought to be ashamed.”

Simpson said he has urged ownership of the mill to provide reasonable support to those losing their jobs.

“To Georgia-Pacific, I have asked that they do all they can to assist with finding jobs for the hundreds that are displaced,” Simpson said. “This will not only impact the direct employees, but (also) the many industries that are a part of the complex network supporting the operation such as loggers, truckers, and other essential workers.

“I would ask that Georgia-Pacific look for ways to go above and beyond on severance pay and insurance assistance. The people of Taylor and surrounding counties are hurting and need a glide path.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Sonja Fitch

    September 20, 2023 at 5:31 am

    Another scathing act by the damn billionaires ! First Disney! Disney fought it and is winning! Then the “immigrants “ that follow the crop seasons are losing the battle! We in Florida have different areas and climates that have facilitated our Economy! Not just tourism! Not just the snow birds! Nor the retirees that make Florida their home!! We in Florida are big and diverse! Ignore Desantis ! Desantis does not give a damn! Fishing and lumber are two more examples of our diverse state!

    • just sayin

      September 20, 2023 at 7:49 am

      Well, those are words you’ve put together.

  • It's Complicated

    September 20, 2023 at 11:35 am

    From a PR standpoint, this is like doing layoffs at Christmas. It will result in a lingering bad will against Georgia-Pacific.

  • Mike Coleman

    September 20, 2023 at 12:37 pm

    Northern Floridians suffer greatly while repeatedly voting for government run by leaders that abuse their loyalty.
    I expect they will continue to vote for the politicians who abuse them.
    I call the situation Battered Voter Syndrome.

  • Richard Fields

    September 20, 2023 at 3:07 pm

    525 jobs? This should read “several thousand jobs”. The impact of this will be devastating if nothing is done to combat this situation. The county and state should have an obligation to this community as they allowed a single entity to become such a large single point of failure to the lives and well being of the people. Not to mention all of the tax dollars the state and county are going to lose if no one is working. Loggers, contractors, mechanic’s, local gas stations, restaurants, day cares, county workers, state workers, printers, tire shops, barbers, first responders, and the LIST GOES ON AND ON.

  • Ron

    September 21, 2023 at 7:42 am

    Maybe this facility could be converted into an industrial hemp processing plant?!?

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn