Community braces for 1100 lost jobs

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

FRANKLIN, VA (WWBT) - A lot of these workers have been at the mill for their entire adult lives. They don't just leave and become computer programmers. So while they wonder about their next paycheck...the surrounding community braces for the economic aftershocks.

Since 1945, Fred's Restaurant has been a Franklin institution, serving generations of workers who made their living, at the International Paper Plant. And now, there's not a soul who walks through the doors, who isn't worried.

"Every day. Not only because of the mill but, the general economy," said David Rabil, Fred's Restaurant.

Last week, International Paper announced its massive mill would be closing - costing 1,100 people their jobs, starting next month. That includes workers like David Johnson, who's been here 17 years.

"Our question is, why? Why is this mill that makes a profit like we do being shut down?" asked Johnson.

He got a chance to ask that question to Governor Tim Kaine, who, ironically - made his visit just a day after national experts declared the recession, over.

"It's not comfort to a community that's lost a plant, no comfort to an individual or family that's lost a job," said Kaine.

Unfortunately for workers, the reason for the closure isn't quite clear. The plant turns out 600,000 tons of paper a year, but a spokesman would only say global demand is down. So now, the question at Fred's is about the future.

"What are we gonna do? How do I get another job? What can I do? What skills do I have, 'cause a lot of these guys were hourly workers straight out of high school," Phillip Bradshaw, former IP worker said.

A difficult realty where workers who once thought they'd retire here, now must wonder, about a new career.

"We hear the shipyard's hiring, so I'ma look into that," said Johnson.

The governor said there were vague talks with International Paper about using the plant for something else in the future. While that possibility wasn't ruled out, it doesn't appear likely anytime soon.

A special web site is now available to help people affected by plant's shutdown. Representative Randy Forbes has put together a list of resources available to families and businesses. It includes employment training, unemployment assistance and federal job resources. A link to that website is located to the right of the article.

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