A huge, but not fatal, blow

Published 8:20 am Friday, October 23, 2009

There’s no sugarcoating the news delivered by International Paper Co. on Thursday. We won’t attempt to do so in this space.

The closure of Franklin’s paper mill is devastating by any economic measure. We hurt today for the 1,100 mill employees who will lose their jobs.

We hurt also for a community and region that soon will lose not just their anchor employer but an icon — the very industry on which our community was built and has prospered for a century. Many businesses, including this newspaper, will feel the fallout of the mill’s closure.

We resist mightily, however, those who are predicting the death of Franklin and Western Tidewater.

Franklin long has been a proud mill town. While the mill will go away in a few months, the pride and industrious spirit that have sustained this community through job losses and natural disasters will continue to sustain it as a new economic foundation is laid. Franklin must build a new identity and a new economic future — and it will. While some naysayers declare Franklin dead, many will be busy at work on a successful recovery.

All eyes will be on the community’s political and civic leadership in the weeks ahead, and rightfully so. Elected officials were put in their current positions to lead, and their leadership is needed more than ever.

Civic and business leaders must work tirelessly to identify the next generation of jobs for a community that has much to offer: thousands of willing workers, outstanding quality of life, affordable housing, and prime geographic proximity and transportation access to Virginia’s population centers.

We appreciate the words of Franklin Mayor Jim Councill, who, amid the shock of Thursday’s announcement, refused to concede defeat.

“We’ve really got to put in a full-court press now,” he said. “We’ve got to do something so people can work here. It’s too nice of a place to live and not have a job.”