1,100 lost jobs return

Published 11:23 am Wednesday, August 1, 2012

ISLE OF WIGHT—The repurposing of Franklin’s International Paper mill and the opening of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in Windsor will mean the replacement of nearly 1,100 jobs lost when IP closed its mill in June 2010.

Western Tidewater will still suffer from a loss of tax revenue, even after both companies are at full strength by 2017, according to an analysis by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

Green Mountain plans to hire 800 employees over the next five years to produce single serve cups for Keurig brewing systems at its $180 million facility in the Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park. IP earlier this month began producing fluff pulp for use in products like diapers and has hired more than 200.

The region lost $9.8 million in local sales and property taxes with the closing of the mill, but will make up $6.2 million of that with the repurposing of the mill and the Green Mountain facility.

With layoffs at Smithfield Foods and IP as well as closings at ATC Panels and Franklin Equipment Co. between 2007 and 2009, the region lost a total of $6.8 million in revenue.

“The gains created by Green Mountain and International Paper do not close the tax revenue gap created by the paper mill closing and the other job losses, but they are an important step in the right direction,” said Brian Kroll, a senior economist with VEDP and author of the report. “In economic development, success can breed more success as the ongoing media coverage of the companies and their announced projects brings more attention to the locality.”

There are two reasons for this, Kroll said. The first was IP had a very ingrained supply chain due to its longtime presence and sourced materials from the community, he said.

“Green Mountain and the fluff pulp mill are both industries that didn’t exist in the region before,” Kroll said. “There’s not as much of a local supply chain for these industries.”

He said the numbers could increase as the two begin to use local products.

Kroll said a second reason for the decline is pay. Workers at Green Mountain and IP will be paid less than the employees at the mill previously, meaning they’ll spend less in the community.

Carrsville District Supervisor Rex Alphin said the benefits these two companies will have on the economy has “surpassed everyone’s expectations” and he thinks the region can get the revenue back.

“From an economic standpoint and other standpoints as well, Isle of Wight is a great place to be,” Alphin said.

The area’s proximity to the Port of Virginia and Gov. Bob McDonnell’s insistence on pushing the port in economic development has been a big factor in the recent success, he added.