Bill to help repurpose mill gets through House, Senate

Published 10:31 am Saturday, February 12, 2011

ISLE OF WIGHT—The state House and Senate have approved separate bills to expand a program into Isle of Wight County that would provide incentives for new businesses.

If Gov. Bob McDonnell approves at least one of the bills, it would expand a joint Enterprise Zone in Franklin and Southampton County to include a 6.37-square-mile area of southern Isle of Wight to help market that area, including the defunct International Paper Co. campus.

“We’re very optimistic at this going through,” said Isle of Wight County spokesman Don Robertson. “Ultimately, it’s a win-win for the entire region primarily because of the many jobs that were lost in Isle of Wight and individuals who live in Franklin and Southampton County and worked at International Paper.”

“Anything like that is going to be an asset to Isle of Wight County,” added Supervisor Kenneth Bunch, who represents the Carrsville District.

IP in October 2009 announced it would close its mill, eliminating 1,100 jobs. The last paper machine was shut down on April 15. Employees were laid off over the next seven to eight months.

International Paper announced last week that it does not plan to make a decision on the future of its Franklin mill until possibly the end of June. The Memphis-based company has groups interested in using the mill for the production of wood pellets, lumber, fluff pulp, ethanol, biomass power generation and bio-diesel production.

Enterprise zones use state and local incentives to help stimulate job creation and private investment in designated areas. The current enterprise zone designation includes Southampton County’s Southampton Business Park and the new Turner Tract industrial park. In Franklin, the zone includes the Pretlow Industrial Park, Downtown Franklin and the Armory Drive area.

State Sens. Fred Quayle, R-Suffolk, and Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, sponsored one bill and Delegates Bill Barlow, D-Smithfield, and Roslyn Tyler, D-Jarratt, sponsored the other.

“We should be in great shape,” Robertson said. “The bills have identical language. If both pass, we will be in fantastic shape when it goes to the governor.”