Now is the time to put focus on recovery

Published 8:17 am Wednesday, October 28, 2009

As I write these comments my emotions still dominate and I am very angry.

It is difficult for me to overcome these feelings, just as each of you are experiencing similar feelings.

Since the announcement of the closing of the Franklin mill, I have had time to reach back and reflect on my memories with the facility over the past thirty five years. I was blessed to have the opportunity to work at the mill during my summers of college life. During these years, I was able to learn firsthand the ins and outs of the manufacturing process of papermaking. I was fortunate enough to be trained by the great papermakers. No text book or college classroom could ever replicate the experiences of the paper mill. Dedication, strong work ethics, looking after one another and understanding the concept of team work were all values learned during my employment there.

Upon completion of college, I began my professional career with Union Camp Corporation. I worked there twenty years before its sale to International Paper. The Particle Board Plant where I worked was later sold, and then sold again. In such an unstable economy, I was one of 150 people terminated. After giving 28 years of my life to the mill, I found myself unemployed for almost seven months. It was one of the most challenging times of my life.

I understand the pain and fear of the unknown; the questions that flood your mind. How will I pay the bills? How will I provide for my family? Will I have health benefits? Will I be able to get a job? How long will I stay unemployed? These are just some of the thoughts that consume your day. I got through this most difficult time by having faith and the most wonderful blessing of family and friends; and so will each of you.

We must come together and pray for each other. We must thank our Supreme maker for all of the Blessings He has provided us and those He will provide in the future. We must ask Him for courage and strength and offer comfort to every person impacted. We have to rely on our family and friends and surround ourselves with a hope for a new and better future. The road will be a long and difficult one, but together, we will prevail.

As your elected leader I encourage you to focus on recovery. This focus must take on several fronts including people, economic development and financial security. Since the announcement there have been numerous meetings between Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight to discuss strategies and to make plans from a collaborative perspective.

In order to ensure our people are properly taken care of, there will be a central location for obtaining information and support. We are thankful that the PDCCC Workforce Center along with Opportunity Inc. will serve this important role. Emphasis will be placed on job placement and employment, skills training, and how to deal with career transitioning. All federal and state agencies will be coordinated through the Workforce Center.

Effective and efficient communication of the efforts by the regional localities is a primary concern that we will be addressing. In the coming days this important aspect will be fully developed and disclosed to everyone. We must ensure open communication with all of our citizens. We will develop one central communication service to avoid the dissemination of conflicting information.

We will be developing strategies to attract new businesses to our region to provide new job opportunities. We must have new jobs in order for our region to survive. We will coordinate this effort through our Economic Development staff. This staff will be working with our Congressional offices and our state agencies including the Governor’s office.

As you know the financial impact to our region will be devastating. Tax revenues in Isle of Wight will be drastically impacted, which in turn will impact Franklin due to the revenue sharing agreement between our localities. In turn Southampton will be affected due to their revenue sharing agreement with Franklin. We are all in this together and we must pull together to resolve our financial situation. Now is the time to place all items on the table for discussion and consideration. We can begin with our state agencies such as the Health and Social Service Departments. Do we need to have separate departments and administration in each locality? What other governmental services can be considered for sharing or even consolidation? We as elected leaders will be discussing these issues along with others as we move forward.

Now is the time for progressive thinking. As we move through these dark days, we must focus on the light of our faith and remember that we are not alone.