IP mill to shut down in a week

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Even as local officials and union representatives work on alternative plans for the International Paper mill, IP is preparing to close the facility late this month.

The mill is scheduled to be shut down the week of July 14, although IP will be shipping products through the end of the month. The bulk of employees, said IP spokeswoman Alison Abernathy, will be released on July 31.

&uot;The main activities that will take place once production is shut down include securing and cleaning up all equipment,&uot; Abernathy said. ‘We’re making sure that all of the clean-up work, including the closure of the landfill, is being completed in an environmentally responsible way.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

Mill manager Steve Olsen said it will take a few days to shut all of the equipment down at the mill, and it will take until the end of the month to get the pulp shipped.

IP announced early this year that it would be closing its chemical cellulose division &045; housed only at the Natchez mill.

The mill, which had at one time been on the market for about a year, opened in Natchez in 1950.

Some 640 people were employed there when the company announced in January it would close later in the year, marking another major manufacturing closure for Natchez.

Since then, economic development leaders have been working with state and federal officials on other possibilities for the mill &045; including an ESOP, an employee stock option plan.

Representatives for the ESOP &045; who could not be reached for comment last week &045; have remained relatively tight-lipped about their plans, but they have said the project is viable after touring another paper company ESOP in North Carolina.

Local ESOP organizers &045; who include a New York-based consultant and a union representative &045; have been working on a business plan for the project, which if viable would lead the ESOP to try to raise capital to purchase the mill and operate it.

Local officials have said time is of the essence because the mill is closing soon.

Olsen would not speculate on future plans for the mill beyond IP other than to say, &uot;If anything else happens, wouldn’t that be wonderful?&uot;