Grant could come soon for IP workers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045;&045; U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Third District, said Thursday he hopes soon to announce a federal emergency workforce grant to help ease the pain for former International Paper employees.

Pickering, in town for a chamber of commerce dinner and for a meeting with local officials about the future of IP, said the grant would come from the U.S. Department of Labor and would include job training and placement funds as well as direct assistance to individuals who have lost jobs in the form of transportation and health insurance funding.

&uot;There’s a good chance of that coming through,&uot; he said, adding he hopes to make an announcement later this month.

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A similar grant in Clark County helped not only individuals who had lost their jobs but also the whole community, Pickering said.

Meanwhile, work to negotiate with IP for the purchase of the mill is ongoing.

&uot;We had a good meeting to discuss where we go from here, and how do we maintain the unity of effort,&uot; Pickering said of his sit-down with local officials.

An effort to execute an employee buyout of the mill was scrapped last month, but the parties involved have pledged to keep working together to find a new purpose for the mill &045;&045; most likely an industrial park.

&uot;We’re trying to see a transition that will hopefully expedite the cleanup and transfer the property and assets so we can begin to turn it into an industrial park,&uot; Pickering said.

Woody Allen, chairman of the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority, said he met with IP officials earlier this week to discuss the possibility of IP selling the plant to the community.

The idea is not novel; in fact, on Wednesday, Jackson County approved a $3.5 million bond issue to buy the old Moss Point IP mill.

The county had been negotiating with the company for about two years on the sale of the property, which Jackson County also plans to use for an industrial park.

Allen said his meeting with IP officials was a good one.

&uot;We’re on a fact-finding mission right now,&uot; he said.