We’re going to make it’ after IP news

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2006

Reached at his home on Thursday afternoon, Blackie Williams was matter-of-fact.

Hours after he found out for sure that the mill where he’s worked for 34 years was closing, Williams simply said, &8220;We’re going to make it.&8221;

Williams might have been talking about his family, or he might have been talking about Natchez as a whole.

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It’s easy, when news like International Paper’s closing comes out, to wring your hands and worry.

But naysayers really have no place in the discussion about moving forward.

A story told about an IP worker who was hurt by comments she was hearing in the community was especially telling.

The worker was even told by one person that the mill would just be &8220;boarded up&8221; soon.

Imagine if you were an IP employee wondering about your future; would you want the rest of the community telling you this is the end of the world?

Should we be realistic? Yes.

But fatalism is a different story.

Immediately, the folks who need our help are those whose livelihood is affected by IP’s closure &045; those who work there and those who work for companies closely tied to the mill.

With the average length of service at the mill being about 20 years, it’s been a while since many of the employees wrote a resume or sat through a job interview.

But the people who are looking at the possibility of unemployment probably don’t need the rest of us telling them how bad this is.

They can assess the damage for themselves; maybe we can help out by being positive.

So how do you find the positives in the situation?

That was a question community leaders were asking themselves in the wake of the announcement.

Aldermen, supervisors, and chamber and EDA leaders know they are the ones we look to for answers about economic development.

And they were a step ahead of the IP closure with a pledge to form an alliance in the region to help attract industry.

The group is planning its first meeting in early February.

It is encouraging to hear the talk of such cooperation. Perhaps International Paper’s closure will be an even greater catalyst for quick action.

Friday’s news of grants and new jobs, while oddly timed, are also a step in the right direction for the Natchez-Adams County area.

As Supervisor Lynwood Easterling said Thursday, IP’s closure is a &8220;wake-up call.&8221;

But it’s not just a wake-up call to elected officials and to those directly charged with finding new industry; it’s a wake-up call to all of us to look for ways to make Natchez attractive to industry.

How many times has someone said about this community, &8220;The last one out needs to turn off the lights&8221;?

Blackie Williams’ response sounds little better:

&8220;I’m going to stay with it until they put the lock on the gate.&8221;

Kerry Whipple

is editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at (601) 445-3541, or by e-mail at kerry.whipple@ natchezdemocrat.com.