No buyer yet for IP’s sawmill

Published 8:41 am Friday, June 18, 2010

FRANKLIN—Despite persistent rumors, International Paper Co. has not sold the Franklin sawmill.

“The recent activity around the sawmill has focused on work being done to maintain and secure the equipment,” IP spokeswoman Donna Wadsworth said. “A number of options are still under consideration for the Franklin site, but no decisions have been made.”

IP closed the sawmill on May 31, 2009, citing a lack of orders in the housing and lumber markets. The closure affected 119 employees.

Wadsworth said the company is looking into all options.

“It takes time to research and study the possible alternatives, so we’re continuing to ask for everyone’s patience with that process.” she said. “We appreciate your understanding as we look to the best decision for everyone involved.”

On rumors surrounding the sawmill, Wadsworth said, “there are lots of rumors and speculation. That’s going to be the story until we have a final resolution. Unfortunately, they tend to get some people excited and upset some people.”

Isle of Wight County Department of Economic Development director Lisa Perry said word of the sawmill’s sale were speculation.

“IP has not indicated any intention of selling anything outright,” Perry said. “Rumors have been circulating, but I’m not sure where that’s coming from.”

Phillip Bradshaw, chairman of the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors, said he had also heard rumors about the sawmill.

“I was told there were some folks looking at the sawmill, but I haven’t heard anything specific,” Bradshaw said. “There have been a lot of different rumors. A couple weeks ago, they said that it had been sold completely.”

Bradshaw, who represents the Carrsville District, urged people to be patient.

“We’re going to continue to hear rumors as this thing moves along, but I think the best thing for us to do is to just be patient and relaxed,” he said. “IP is looking at everything. We need to continue to support them and let them know that we’re going to do whatever we can to help them as far as repurposing this mill. We need to let whatever prospects or investors they’ve got looking at the mill know that we’re willing to work with them regionally.”

Bradshaw added that IP remained in contact with state officials, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, which he said was a good thing.

The sawmill’s closure marked the end of an era spanning 154 years. John Frisbee founded the first sawmill along the banks of the Blackwater River at Franklin in 1855. Later, the Camp family purchased an existing sawmill from the Neely brothers in 1886.