Businesses also coping with the ‘shocking’ news

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 24, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Miss-Lou area business owners were reeling Thursday afternoon

from the news of International Paper Company’s pending closure.

&uot;It’s obviously going to be devastating.

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It’s terrible,&uot; said Marc Archer, owner of J & J’s Carpet in Vidalia, La.

But Archer said he will explore every way possible to minimize the effects of the closure on his operations.

&uot;In business, you don’t just sit around on your hands,&uot; said Archer. &uot;We have different avenues we can pursue, so I’m trying not to overreact.

But I have 12 employees here, and it scares us to death.&uot;

&uot;It’s shocking &045; after all the talk of a sale went through, and then this just came out of the blue,&uot; said Tom Graining, owner of the Go Mart convenience store on U.S. 61 South at Highland Boulevard.

&uot;With our location, we get a lot of traffic from the mill,&uot; said Graning, who just finished remodeling his business.

&uot;Three years ago, we leveled everything and started over. This kind of news scares everybody.&uot;

Graning had no idea what Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s announcement will be here today.

&uot;I just hope our leaders can do something positive,&uot; he said.

Jerry Roberts worked at IP for five years before becoming the manager of Cellular South, and his brother-in-law is one of 640 employees at the plant who will soon be out of work.

&uot;I hired in with a lot of those guys out there.

If they let some of them go first, then my brother-in-law will be among them.

I’m concerned for him &045; for his family,&uot; said Roberts.

Roberts said with the closing of Georgia-Pacific in Gloster and the Johns-Manville plant here, the loss of IP will seriously impact the local economy.

&uot;It seems like nothing good has happened here lately,&uot; he said.

Larry Gardner, owner of the Dairy Queen restaurant on John R. Junkin Drive and chairman of the Adams County Election Commission, said the long-term effect of the IP closure on the restaurant business and the entire economy will be dramatic.

&uot;Those were high-paying jobs &045; that’s what’s so devastating.

That plant brought a lot of dollars into our economy from outside the community,&uot; said Gardner, who sees the Natchez-area economy in a serious downturn.

&uot;We’ve already seen an exodus of our young people looking for jobs, and now people in their 40s and 50s will be out looking for work,&uot; Gardner said.

&uot;The tourism trade has been in a decline for years, and what’s being constructed in Vidalia won’t be enough,&uot; he said.

Big M Supply company owner and Natchez alderman Jake Middleton said the Natchez area and Southwest Mississippi is long-overdue for some help from Jackson and Washington.

&uot;We’ve taken some pretty hard shots with Johns Manville, Fidelity Tire and the Ethyl Corporation. I don’t know how much more we can take. We’ve got to have some help,&uot; said Middleton, who thinks Southwest Mississippi is overdue for economic development.

&uot;We’ve been the most neglected part of the state for 20 years.

We’ve got a good EDA man and we are doing what we can locally, but it’s time for our congressmen to take the ball and run with it,&uot; said Middleton, who valued IP both as a personal business client and as a base for the area economy.

&uot;I hope the governor has some good news for us (today),&uot; he said.

&uot;We are going to try to help our customers any way we can, especially those who are immediately affected by the closure,&uot; said Concordia Bank and Trust president Pat Biglane.

Biglane stressed that the IP workforce is a highly-trained and diverse group.

&uot;I would think that the strong workforce that IP had would be attractive to other industries that might locate here,&uot; he said. &uot;We need to look ahead.&uot;