Politicians weigh in on closing

Published 1:51 pm Thursday, October 22, 2009



FRANKLIN—Elected officials in Washington and Richmond reacted swiftly Thursday to the news of the Franklin paper mill’s closure, as did both of the men campaigning to become the next governor of Virginia.

Current, future governor weigh in

Gov. Tim Kaine characterized the mill’s closure as “a deep blow to the community and the Commonwealth.”

“This plant has long served as an economic asset for the area, and its phased closing is most distressing,” Kaine said in a written statement. “My heart goes out to the affected workers and their families, as well as all others who will be affected by this closure.”

Republican Bob McDonnell and Democrat Creigh Deeds echoed that sentiment through press releases from their respective campaigns.

“My thoughts are with all the workers and their families,” McDonnell said from Culpeper. “We know that a closing like this will not be easy to recover from. This is a tough moment. But, working together, we will get new jobs created in this area and get the men and women of the International Paper mill back to work, with the good paying jobs that they need and deserve.”

Meanwhile, Deeds, campaigning in Norfolk, said: “My thoughts are with the many families of those affected by this terrible news. This is a reminder that as Virginia works to emerge from the national economic downturn, we must do so by joining together, reaching across party lines, and by being honest about both the problems we face and the solutions we propose.”

Kaine said he was ordering the Virginia Employment Commission to send an “Economic Crisis Strike Force” to Franklin in the next few days.

The governor’s press secretary, Gordon Hickey, said the task force would represent “a combination of state agencies” and would be responsible for helping displaced workers and families file for unemployment benefits, find appropriate career enhancement and retraining courses, and identify available social services programs.

Hickey said the state was looking for somewhere to house the task force and that decisions were being made “as we speak.” He added that Kaine had no current plans to visit the area.

Comforting words from Congress …

U.S. Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Mark Warner, D-Va., and Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., also released statements in the wake of Thursday’s announcement.

“Today’s announcement is tragic for both the dedicated workers of International Paper and the community that relied on this plant for its livelihood,” Webb said. “I will continue to do everything I can in the months ahead to offer relief to the workers and the community affected by this closure.”

Warner concurred, adding, “Over the longer term, it also is important that we market the quality workforce in this strong and resilient community to other potential employers.”

In an open letter to the citizens of Franklin, Forbes said through the years the city “has endured difficult challenges. Every challenge has been marked by a season of loss. But each time that season has been eclipsed by the characteristic spirit of Franklin residents: hopeful, resilient, hard-working, smart and determined. Together, we will see this happen again.”

… and the House of Delegates

State Delegate Bill Barlow, D-Smithfield, said he was also saddened by the news.

“It’s always been talked about, but when it happens it still comes as a shock,” Barlow said. “My heart goes out to employees and their families and friends.”

He pointed out that it’s not the first time the community has been devastated.

“We’ve gotten through some tough times before,” Barlow said. “The flood is a good example. That was a terrible situation. This has even more far-reaching effects. We’ve all got to maintain a positive attitude. We need to support each other and do what we can to get through this.”