Mark calendars for gala

Published 8:26 am Saturday, January 14, 2012

If any community deserves a good party, it’s Franklin.

And the hard-working Franklin 50th Committee is throwing one.

A gala to commemorate Franklin’s 50th year as an independent city is set for Friday night, Feb. 17, at the Paul D. Camp Community College Workforce Development Center.

The committee, chaired by Holt and Judy Livesay, originally planned the gala for December but wisely postponed until February to avoid conflicting with several established holiday events in the community.

Tickets are $25 apiece, and business sponsorships ranging from $100 to $5,000 are being sought.

International Paper, appropriately, has signed on as the event’s title sponsor. IP’s repurposing of its shuttered Franklin mill is one of a series of recent developments that has lifted spirits and put the community on what appears to be a promising path of economic recovery.

In Franklin’s 50 years of independence, the last dozen have been most challenging.

The 1999 double whammy of the Union Camp-IP merger and a major downtown flood was enough to sink a community with less mettle. Franklin endured, only to be smacked again by IP’s decision to close the mill entirely in 2010.

Few among us would deny some doubts at the time about Franklin’s ability to weather another economic catastrophe.

Two years later, it’s safe to say she’s done just that — and that the darkest days are behind.

The mill is coming back to life, albeit with much less employment, and other uses of the mill campus are being actively explored. Green Mountain Coffee is building a huge manufacturing and distribution operation just up the road in Windsor. Enviva Corp. has announced plans to build a wood-pellet mill in Southampton County.

Much work remains, but there’s much to celebrate. The Franklin 50th Committee is giving us the opportunity on Feb. 17.

STEVE STEWART is publisher of The Tidewater News. His email address is For ticket and sponsorship information on the Franklin 50th Gala, call Nancy Parrish at 516-7153.