A new beginning

Published 9:51 am Saturday, February 27, 2010

The City of Franklin and surrounding communities’ industrial history includes timber, agriculture and manufacturing. Dating back to 1887 when the Camp Lumber Mill was established near downtown Franklin, the Camp Lumber Mill grew into a major manufacturing facility, generating an assortment of paper products, pulp, chemicals and lumber.

In 1999, Union Camp Corporation sold the mill to International Paper, a leader in global paper products. On Oct. 22, after 10 years of successful profitable operation, IP announced the scheduled closure of the Franklin mill by Spring. The result is the direct loss of 1,100 skilled jobs.

The announcement is a result of the global recession and the decline in demand for uncoated free sheet and coated paperboard. Of the 1,100 employees, 574 live either in Franklin or Southampton County. Their skill sets range in a variety of expertise from millwrights, pipefitters, maintenance technicians, safety coordinators and machinists to electricians, engineers, production managers, chemists, administration and customer service representatives.

Fortunately, Franklin will always serve as a major retail, wholesale and marketing center for the surrounding area. A strong number of existing businesses are present in the Franklin/Southampton region and even more throughout Hampton Roads. Examples include Money Mailer, Narricot, Ashland Chemical and Dominion Power.

The Franklin Southampton region also has an assortment of small businesses and entrepreneurs to blossom for future growth. The expanding and successful Franklin Business Incubator and Franklin Southampton Economic Development are two services here to aid small companies and assist former IP employees interested in exploring entrepreneurial endeavors.

Companies looking to expand to the area can take advantage of FSEDI’s economic development services and utilize the 1,100 highly skilled employees ready to fill new positions. A brand new Enterprise Zone designation through the city of Franklin and Southampton County is also available with state and local incentives. Companies in the renewable energy industry now have an abundant wood supply ready for biomass energy, wood pellets and ethanol, to name a few.

The Franklin mill averaged more than 225 trucks of timber per day. An existing network of professionals in the timber industry ensures a smooth and successful transition.

The closure of International Paper is a historic event for Franklin/Southampton, however, it is a new beginning for the community. The communities are proactively looking to redefine their identity and plan a more prosperous future.

Many community leaders and local citizens are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. The Franklin/Southampton region has strong assets they can rely on to nourish existing businesses and market to new industry.

A highly skilled and eager workforce; a full-service timber industry; a new Enterprise Zone designation; inexpensive land with utilities available; and, a strong transportation corridor make Franklin Southampton attractive to any local, regional, national or multinational companies.