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Hard lessons learned from IP closing

Life’s milestones — good and bad — either feel like they occurred decades and decades ago or just yesterday.

When we think about the closure of the International Paper Natchez mill, it’s difficult to believe the site has been shuttered for 10 years.

At times it seems like it’s five times that long. Other times it seems like just a few months ago.

The mill’s closure was a generational milestone, as was its arrival in 1950.

IP left a mark on Natchez for more than 50 years. The mill was good to us, but we also became fat and happy, too.

When the community should have been continuing to recruit new industries to help diversify our economy, we didn’t.

Why bother? We had IP.

Like most good things, we take them for granted until they are gone.

When the mill closed, the once familiar foul-smell the plant created left and at first it seemed like something to cheer about, until we stopped to realize that smell fueled our economy and the livelihoods of thousands of workers from the years.

Now more than a decade after the mill grinded to a halt, the county owns the plant’s land and is working to market it to new industries.

We miss IP, but more than anything we miss the jobs the company brought. Fortunately — and this took longer than it should have — the community retooled its economic development engine and the resulting Natchez Inc. is working hard to overcome the loss of jobs we sustained when the big fish we had left the pond.

Recovery, though, will take longer than 10 years.