At 7 a.m. Friday, Leigh-Ann Woody reported for work at the Lawrence Paper Co., just as she had been doing every day for two years.
Two hours later she was sent home without a job. She was one of 15 employees laid off by the firm, 2801 Lakeview Road, which can trace its Lawrence roots back to 1882.
“We had no warning at all,” Woody, of Lecompton, said. “My department, we had work. It was a shock to everybody.”
The layoffs were necessary because business is off close to 20 percent, company president Justin Hill said. The firm manufactures corrugated packaging products for different businesses.
“It’s just like everybody else, we’ve got to adjust our workforce to the amount of work we have,” Hill said.
The firm also will close its thermoform Perry Manufacturing plastics division plant in Perry and move the machinery to the Lawrence plant, Hill said. When that process is completed in 30 to 60 days, three employees from Perry will move to the Lawrence plant, and five people will be without jobs, he said.
Woody, who worked with big machinery, said she watched as a supervisor came back and got a female co-worker and led her away. It was the first indication that layoffs were starting, she said. Not long after a supervisor came for her. She said she met with another senior company official who explained why the layoffs were necessary. She was handed a packet of information that included a letter which stated that the company wished her well.
“People were looking at others walking out and your heart breaks for them and then they come for you,” Woody, 49, said.
Woody, who is single, said the job was especially important to her because she suffers from bipolar disorder, which can cause extreme emotional highs and lows. The job got her out of the house and she considered co-workers her family. It took one paycheck a month to pay for her medications because she couldn’t afford the company’s insurance premiums, she said.
“The job was a tremendous thing for me,” she said. “I overcame some big odds just to get this job, so I can do it again.”
The layoffs at the paper company came a day after another Lawrence business, Amarr Garage Doors, laid off 18 workers, only three months after it had laid off 100 employees.
In contrast, at least one Lawrence manufacturer is hiring. PackerWare Inc., 2330 Packer Road, maker of plastic products, is seeking to fill a variety of positions, including machine operators, truck and forklift drivers and skilled technicians, plant manager Steve Brown said.
“We’re going through an expansion phase and we continue to need good help,” he said. “There is a cap; it’s not unlimited hiring.”
Brown is well aware of what’s happening with layoffs at other local businesses, he said.
“We keep our ear close to the ground and we see what’s happened and that’s unfortunate, but our business is solid,” he said.