Citizens to circulate IP petition

Published 9:11 am Friday, November 6, 2009

FRANKLIN—Faye Spencer Bryant knows what the loss of a major employer can do to an area. She grew up in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., and watched, as the city was devastated when the cotton mills closed.

“It devastates a lot of things,” she said. “It’s not a pretty site.”

To keep Franklin and the surrounding communities from suffering any more than necessary as a result of the closure of International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill, Bryant, along with other community members, is working on a petition to keep the company from demolishing its buildings.

Franklin Mayor Jim Councill said Bryant came to him with the petition idea a few days ago.

“I encouraged her to do it because it was something very positive,” he said Thursday. “It’s a good thing to express every positive opinion and request for participation in the remaking of Franklin.”

Both Councill and Bryant said they hope corporate America will better understand the effects of its actions on people.

If the buildings are left intact, Bryant and others hope another business will be able to move in and re-employ some of the displaced IP workers.

“It’s a petition to bring forth the public awareness,” she said. Bryant said she doesn’t know what can be done to convince IP not to demolish the buildings, but she hopes to get enough signatures to take to government officials so they can look into the options.

“I hate to see this happen to this area,” she said. “It may be a good business decision for (IP), but it’s morally wrong to take the livelihoods of so many people.”

Bryant’s husband, Cedric Bryant, is a union leader who’s been at IP for more than 30 years. Effects bargaining is scheduled to begin on Monday.

While her family will be personally affected by the closure, Bryant said she is more concerned about the younger people who won’t be able to tap into their pensions and others who will be without insurance coverage.

“Our community is pulling together,” Bryant said. She hopes to start circulating petitions throughout the community by next week.

“I would hope that she would get thousands of signatures from everyone in the community,” Councill said. “Their voices deserve to be heard.”