One year can make a difference

Published 10:21 am Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Oh what a difference a year can make.

As recently as this time last year, while we prepared to close the chapter on 2010, there were many in Western Tidewater who insisted we were on the verge of following the dodo bird into extinction. They said our community’s once stable economy, anchored and fortified by International Paper, would never recover from the loss of our largest employer.

Yet here we are as the end of 2011 is drawing near, and we are pleased to see that the naysayers missed the mark by a country mile.

The year 2011 has been a great year for Western Tidewater. IP decided to resume operations at the Franklin mill, albeit on a smaller scale, producing fluff pulp. We had to look it up, too, but it’s a forestry related product that is in high demand and will be made by a couple hundred people who will be glad to have a job.

Two other firms, both new to the area, also announced they would like to begin operations at the Franklin mill. One will be making a recycled paper product and the other wood pellets. A few hundred more people will benefit in the way of jobs once they begin operations, hopefully some time in 2013.

Dominion Power announced it would be converting its coal-burning facility in Southampton County to one that runs on wood products, which will create an additional 100 jobs in the forestry and trucking industries and ensures that the many well-paying positions at the power plant would be saved.

Enviva, a wood pellet manufacturer, recently closed a deal to move into the Turner Tract industrial park in Southampton County, which will create 65 jobs, and their product has already found a home here locally as they will be one of the suppliers to Dominion.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters also announced this fall that it would bring a new manufacturing facility and over 800 jobs to Windsor. The largest development deal of its type in our region, it is bound to have a substantial and positive impact on our economy.

On the homegrown front, Highground Services was honored with local and state awards, despite challenging economic times. The company found a way to survive and prosper right here at home while creating over 30 jobs in the last couple of years.

And the Town of Boykins, whose turnaround from a small Main Street community with all its storefront windows either cracked or shuttered to a bustling business community worthy of the praise and honor it has received, has been an astounding and inspiring model for other communities to follow.

So, as we prepare to write the final headlines for 2011, we begin to look forward to what may lie ahead in 2012. We hope for the opportunity to chronicle yet another great chapter in the story of a community that refuses to give up and be left for dead.