Let’s not wait around to let IP make it happen

Published 10:08 am Saturday, February 5, 2011

This week’s announcement that a decision on the repurposing of the International Paper mill has been delayed again wasn’t so much surprising as it was frustrating.

Not because this is the second or third such delay; these things take time to develop, and it’s a complex facility with a number of potential uses. It’s a complicated situation, so really, to expect a quick decision is a little unrealistic.

What frustrates me is the way a number of people reacted to the delay. It seems like many of us are pinning our community’s hope for a bright economic future on what happens at the mill. Why? For goodness’ sake, being dependent on the mill is what got us into this situation in the first place.

Instead, let’s do this: Let’s assume nothing is going to happen at the mill and plan accordingly. Not to be pessimistic, but that is one of many possible outcomes. International Paper’s track record with closed facilities is to leave them closed. So while we should remain hopeful, we should also get real.

Instead of waiting around for someone to come riding into town on a white horse and save our economic rear ends, let’s be responsible for our own rear ends. Let’s figure out a way to grow our economy from the inside out, not the other way around.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Let’s assume that all the grocery stores in town got together and announced that none of them would ever again sell apples.

I know, but just bear with me.

So no more apples will ever again be sold here in Franklin. What would we do? We’d talk about how much we would miss apples. And how much we’ve always loved apples.

And we’d talk about just how tasty and healthy the apples had always been. And we’d talk about how apples had always sustained us and how life was just never going to be the same without apples.

And some folks would wait around and pray for a new grocery store to move to town and sell us apples again. I guarantee you that is what would happen.

But I’ll guarantee you this too — somebody in this community, more likely a few somebodies, would see an opportunity, quit sitting around and get busy planting apple trees.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. In fact, those who know me best might tell you they question whether I have any answers at all. But I do know this: It’s long past time for us to quit sitting around and to get busy planting some apple trees.

TONY CLARK is a marketing consultant and director of special projects at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.