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Lumber plant in Deerwood closes, housing market to blame

DEERWOOD, Minn. (AP) -- A plant that produces engineered strand lumber used for houses will close indefinitely, and officials here are blaming a slow housing market for the move.

The Weyerhaeuser Co. plant in Deerwood, located about 20 miles northwest of Brainerd, employs 158 people. They were notified about the closing Thursday.

Company officials said the plant will close sometime before the end of the year. It will remain shut down unless an upturn in the housing market leads to increases in customer demand, said company spokeswoman Nancy Thompson.

"We are not interested in selling the business and its proprietary aspects. We are keeping the property," Thompson said.

The closure comes the year after officials made production cutbacks. The company will also close down production at two plants in Canada, officials said.

Weyerhaeuser, which is based in Federal Way, Wash., is providing employees with severance pay, job-transition services and counseling.

"These difficult decisions are not a reflection on the hard work of our employees," said Steven R. Rogel, the company's chief executive officer. "They are the result of today's challenging business environment, and part of an ongoing effort to strengthen Weyerhaeuser's overall portfolio to enhance shareholder value."