Shad Planking draws crowd

Published 10:00 am Friday, April 22, 2011

Gov. Bob McDonnell greets visitors as he arrives at the 63rd annual Wakefield Ruritan Shad Planking. Virginia's 71st governor poked fun at candidates and the legislature during his keynote speech at the event held Wednesday. -- Dale Liesch | Tidewater News

WAKEFIELD—Tuesday’s announcement about the possibility of a wood pellet manufacturer coming to Franklin had legislators buzzing during the 63rd annual Shad Planking.

Franklin Pellets is looking into the feasibility of using the shuttered International Paper mill. Former Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is a partner in the company.

Former Virginia Gov. and U.S. Sen. George Allen, left, who is making another bid for the Senate, shakes hands with Drew Page during the 63rd annual Shad Planking. Page is an attorney with Stallings & Bischoff who will be practicing at the firm’s new Courtland office on Southampton Parkway. -- SUBMITTED | JACK RANDALL

Delegate Bill Barlow, D-Smithfield, said he hoped the announcement would be a “catalyst for other breakthroughs.”

“We’re pleased about the announcement yesterday,” Barlow said. “I hope that will materialize and be the first step in a number of steps to improve the economy of the area.”

Delegate Roslyn Tyler, D-Jarratt, also said the announcement was a positive one.

“It will at least mean 100 new jobs,” Tyler said.

Franklin Pellets is working with IP, providing engineering studies, cost analysis and business analysis, said IP Communications Manager Donna Wadsworth.

Wadsworth would not go into specifics but said IP is also exploring other opportunities for the mill that would not compete with the pellet operation.

“We are looking at proposals in light of the assets that are there,” she said. “The main driver in all of this is to repurpose the mill and bring life back into the mill for the community.”

Wadsworth said it was too early to discuss whether Franklin Pellets would buy or lease part of the mill.

Gov. Bob McDonnell commended the work of the General Assembly in helping to allow for incentives for economic development purposes. He told reporters Wednesday the government’s economic development work is “starting to pay dividends,” but that job creation is still a top priority.

McDonnell also announced plans Wednesday to visit Japan and other Asian markets in hopes of opening up a trade office. He said he wants to tell “the Virginia story” while abroad.