CONWAY, Ark. – A large manufacturing operation in Conway is suspending operations and reducing staff after the cancellation of an exclusive contract.

Structurlam Mass Timber Corporation of British Columbia announced Wednesday that it was suspending operations at its Conway location. The suspension will coincide with staff reductions due to an exclusive contract with Walmart being canceled, Structurlam Mass Timber Corporation CEO Matthew Karmel said.

Karmel said the company will lay off 144 employees while leaving 24 in place to maintain the plant.

“Decisions like this are never easy, especially when they impact our people,” Matthew Karmel, CEO of Structurlam Mass Timber Corporation, said. “We appreciate the support of the Conway community and state and regional business partners, and we look forward to continuing to remain a vibrant part of this growing economy.”

Karmel said the company would continue its central Arkansas plans, and no longer having a contract frees it up to pursue other customers.

“To put this into context, the state-of-the-art Conway plant has a capacity sufficient to construct a 200,000-square-foot office building every two months,” Karmel said. “We continue to work diligently to identify new solutions for putting this facility to good use, as it represents an important step in our North American growth strategy.”

Karmel said the demand for mass timber production is strong. Structurlam had turned down customers earlier due to its exclusive contract with Walmart. With that contract’s cancellation, the company is re-engaging with those prospects.

Plant Manager Jody Doak indicated an intent to continue Conway operations.

“We are grateful for the contributions and hard work of the Conway employees, and we anticipate the prospect of welcoming them back with new customer projects,” Doak said.

Conway was the company’s first U.S. operations site. In a 2019 announcement, Structurlam stated it had purchased a 288,000-square-foot former steel plant in the city that it converted to mass-timber operations for $90 million.

The plant development coincided with Structurlam announcing that Walmart had invested in it. The 2019 announcement said Walmart would be Structurlam’s first U.S. customer.

Structurlam’s corporate website had job postings for Conway on its corporate website on Wednesday.

Walmart had earlier announced plans to use 1.1 million feet of Arkansas-grown and produced timber for mass timber construction of its new home office in Bentonville.

Mass timber is a construction process of multilayer wood panels constructed off-site, then assembled on-site in building construction. According to Structurlam, mass timber has multiple benefits, including a lower environmental impact than concrete or steel building construction.