Community can learn from IP mill’s workers

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 24, 2003

No matter how many rumors we had heard over the last few years about International Paper, Thursday’s announcement that the Natchez mill was closing was a body blow to this community.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t recover.

Our hearts go out to the families who are most directly affected by the impending closure. The 640 mill employees who will lose their jobs over the next six months have worked long and hard over the past two years to make the Natchez mill successful. The closure of the mill is not their failure; the circumstances have been dictated by market conditions.

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But Natchez itself can learn something from the hard work and dedication of those IP employees.

As the shock of Thursday’s announcement wears off, we realize that we are faced with only one viable option: moving forward.

And we must tackle our future together, with a strategic plan for success.

Think of how many times Natchez &045; the oldest continuous settlement on the Mississippi River &045; has risen above what seemed insurmountable challenges. After the Civil War, when cotton ceased to be king, merchants came to rule the economy. When the Depression hit and eroded their success, Natchez recovered to make its first forays into tourism, along with manufacturing and oil. And when the bottom dropped out of the oil industry, we bounced back again.

Natchez has a long history of recovery and reinvention &045; but it comes with dedication and teamwork. We owe it to the Natchez mill employees, who exemplified that hard work; we owe it to our history; we owe it to each other to rise above this crisis &045; together.