Regional meeting on mill closure draws packed house

Published 10:17 pm Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Concerned International Paper Co. employees and their families, business owners and other community members packed the Workforce Development Center at Paul D. Camp Community College Wednesday night.

Officials from Franklin, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County, with representatives from Suffolk and Gates County, N.C., held a regional meeting with numerous state agencies and elected officials from the state and federal level to try to develop a plan of action to help impacted IP employees, their families and communities.

About 600 chairs were set up for the event, but overflow seating was needed to accommodate the crowd.

“This is truly a community effort; it knows no jurisdictional bounds,” said U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., who attended the meeting. State Sen. Frederick Quayle, R-Suffolk, and Delegates William Barlow, D-Smithfield, and Roslyn Tyler, D-Jarratt, also attended the meeting, as did representatives for U.S. Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., Jim Webb, D-Va., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Gov. Tim Kaine.

Speakers from the Virginia Employment Commission and other state agencies spoke about the services that are already or will soon be available to displaced mill workers, and economic development officials spoke about plans to market the region to other businesses.

Isle of Wight County Supervisor Phillip Bradshaw said the closure of IP should bring about more cooperation among the governments of the affected localities.

“We are in a crisis and we have to think differently,” he said.