Displaced employees to get help

Published 12:04 am Friday, October 26, 2012

NATCHEZ — Local job training and placement agencies will be reaching out to workers affected by Mississippi River Pulp’s close in the near future.

MRP announced Wednesday that it will be closing its Natchez mill effective Oct. 31. The company’s management cited a lack of demand for its recycled fiber products and an inability to find a buyer for the Natchez mill as reasons for the closure.

A total of 79 hourly and salaried workers will lose their jobs.

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MRP management declined to further discuss the closure — including the future of the plant site — Thursday.

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said once MRP files its Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, a rapid response team that includes the WIN Job Center and Copiah-Lincoln Community College will be allowed to move in and meet with employees. Members of the rapid response team have already contacted MRP’s human resources department to start coordinating the effort.

“Any company that has more than 50 employees has to notify the Department of Employment Security if they are laying off employees for an extended of period time or shutting down, and once they do that, it allows the rapid response team to mobilize,” Russ said. “MRP should be doing that today or tomorrow.”

When the members of the rapid response team meet with employees, they will be meeting with them on an individual basis.

“(The response team) would be advising the employees of what their benefits are under the closure, whether there are unemployment benefits or possible retraining benefits through the community college, things along those lines,” Russ said.

The WIN Job Center will also be encouraging each person to fill out an application to keep in the job center’s files for employment for future job searches, Russ said.

MRP bought Mississippi River Corporation in May 2010, three months after MRC filed bankruptcy amid concerns of low prices and short demand for its products.

In a news release about the decision to close the mill, MRP said the company had not been able to find enough demand for its products in order to be equitable to all of its stakeholders in the two years since the purchase.

Before deciding to close the mill, the company’s owners had sought a buyer for several months, but had not been met with what they felt was an acceptable proposal.

Vice President for Manufacturing Lynn Patt said Wednesday despite the plans to close the mill, MRP was still looking for a buyer.