May 3, 2016 10:04:00 AM
Monday, when it was confirmed that Weyerhaeuser would be selling two of its local production facilities as part of a $2.2 billion deal with International Paper our thoughts immediately turned to the company's long association with the Golden Triangle, particularly Lowndes County.
Of all of our industries, our association with Weyerhaeuser is the longest, starting even before construction of its massive pulp mill facility near what is now the Industrial Park.
As Harry Sanders, president of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors, noted, Weyerhaeuser arrived in our area in the 1950s, buying property and planting pine trees that would reach maturity by the time the company began its mill operations here in the late 1970s.
While the deal with Memphis-based International Paper is not expected to be consummated until the end of the year and the company will still operate an office to manage its large timber holding in the area, we do feel a sense of loss.
Over the years, Weyerhaeuser and the community have developed a close, affectionate, mutually beneficial relationship. The company has proven to be a good corporate citizen, a reliable friend.
Although Weyerhaeuser maintained something of a low profile, its impact on the community has been profound. It provided good-paying jobs, produced millions of dollars for our county and schools through taxes and has been a generous supporter of local charities too numerous to mention.
Few know this better than Sanders, who sold lubricants and diesel fuel to the company when he was in the oil business back in the late 70s and work was just beginning on the paper mill.
"I can't say enough good things about them," he said.
Neither can we.
As we think of all that Weyerhaeuser has meant to our community, our attention begins to turn to our "new neighbor," International Paper, one of the oldest paper-mill operators in the county (established in 1898) and one of the largest, too, with more than 55,000 employees in 24 countries.
Our hope is that International Paper will move into our community seamlessly and will retain most, if not all, of the 420 employees currently working at our local Weyerhaeuser facilities.
We also hope International Paper will prove to be a key economic force in our community, that it will support the community in ways large and small, that it will prove to be an generous supporter for local charities and participate enthusiastically in the life of our community.
In other words, we hope International Paper will prove to be like Weyerhaeuser.
So, as we begin our long goodbyes to Weyerhaeuser, we extend our warm welcome to International Paper.
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