Local leaders still seeking options for IP mill

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 14, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Although they have not yet scheduled another summit on the issue, local leaders are still searching for options to use all or part of International Paper’s Natchez mill facility.

That’s according to Woody Allen, chairman of the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority.

IP announced Jan. 23 that it would close its 52-year-old Natchez mill by the middle of the year, leaving 640 people out of work, due to a poor market for the chemical cellulose it produces.

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City, county, EDA, Chamber of Commerce, International Paper, union and federal and state officials are among those who have met since the announcement to see if another company could be attracted to the mill facility.

&uot;We’re just trying to look at all the options available,&uot; Allen said.

During a February trip to Washington, EDA Director Mike Ferdinand and county officials talked with the area’s congressional delegation and with IP executives, who pledged that company’s support in marketing the facility to prospective buyers.

Local leaders had the chance during the meeting to tell IP officials of various federal and state incentives that could be available to entice someone to the site.

Entergy and the University of Southern Mississippi are among other partners that are working to help market the facility.

Local government and economic leaders realize that IP conducted its own search for 18 months to find a buyer for the mill and was unsuccessful.

&uot;But we want to make sure there’s not another option that hasn’t been found,&uot; Allen said.

Still, he said, &uot;I wouldn’t go so far as to say someone’s looking at the plant now.&uot;