March 18, 2010 3:41:00 PM
The Domtar Columbus paper mill closing is tragic and a blow to the local economy. The facility, forever known by many as simply "Weyerhaeuser," has for decades been an economic cornerstone of Lowndes County, and its employees have played a significant role in the civic life of this community. This is sad news, indeed.
The plant on Old Macon Road, which makes coated paper for magazines, was confronting a magazine industry that has shrunk -- literally. Many magazines in recent years have shrunk in size, dimension-wise, to reduce printing costs. And, with advertisers placing fewer ads, magazines have become thinner as well. Many titles have ceased publication. Circulation, overall, was down more than 2 percent in 2009 compared to 2008.
Recently, the plant has been "unprofitable quarter after quarter," despite the good work by local employees, a spokeswoman said. And, it has been shutting down "off and on" over the past few years to save costs.
But that doesn''t make the news that 219 good-paying jobs will be gone by the end of April any easier to swallow. The plant closure is the largest layoff in the county in 10 years, according to the Columbus Lowndes Development Link.
Add those 219 people to the 3,460 the state Department of Employment Security said were unemployed in Lowndes County in January -- a 13.4 percent unemployment rate for the month. Inside the Columbus city limits, the state puts the January unemployment rate at 19.9 percent -- one in five adults unemployed.
Decades ago, when first constructed by Weyerhaeuser, the mill was a significant feather in Columbus'' cap. In those days long before Severstal and our budding aerospace industries, the plant attracted skilled, educated, well-paid workers that added to the character -- and tax base -- of Columbus. We bemoan the fact that a large, publicly traded company has left Lowndes County, when we take such pride in attracting them. And with the market for paper shrinking, we believe the Link will have an uphill climb in attracting a new business to the plant.
For its overall strategy during the economic downturn, the Link is wisely "taking this time to set ourselves up for another win," Link CEO Joe Higgins has said, with the marketing of two megasites and preparing infrastructure around the Golden Triangle Regional Airport for future growth.
Higgins has said 2009 was the county''s second-worst year in the past six for industry expansions or openings. Still, that amounts to $150 million to $175 million in projects.
We hope Monday''s bad news isn''t a harbinger of another bad year, and that the wins eventually outnumber the losses, as the county settles in to a tough 2010.
Dhiimond Jackson commented at 3/18/2010 6:12:00 PM:
This is RIDICULOUS!!!! I am not sure just what is exactly going on with our government leaders in Mississippi, and in the United States overall. Something has got to give! People are wanting to work desperately, yet there are no jobs! I guess the government wants to make the entire U.S. live off of it (the government).
I sure pray for all of you who have lost your jobs. Times are so so sad right now. It is surely a time for prayer and getting closer to God.
frank commented at 3/19/2010 9:40:00 AM:
We need to bring home the troops from Afghanistan and any that are left in Iraq. This in itself would free up billions of dollars that would be better used to invest in America's. It is not enough that we are spending millions in these countries to establish a terrorist free enviroment, but after we supposedly finish demolishing the infrastructure of these backward places, we will then turn around and pump untold quantities of money into the rebuilding of the very places we helped to destroy. We would be better served to spend this money in America, and let those terror ridden places fend for themselves. Afghanistan has been fighting for a 1000 years, and they will still be fighting as long as they are there. The only difference in Vietnam and Iraq were the events of 9/11. The destruction of the twin towers served to motivate America into a frenzy to eradicate terrorists... terrorist are still killing people in Iraq, yet we have moved on to Afghanistan, after leaving a few thousand U.S. troops dead in Iraq, and for what? In Vietnam, it was 58,000 + dead, and for what? Who "owns" Siagon now? Where is Bin Laden?
Mark commented at 3/19/2010 11:59:00 AM:
The government did not create the current economic situation, Dhiimond. Businesses did. Manufacturing has been leaving the U.S. steadily in the past 3 decades. Our current administration is trying to help get the economy going again. If not for the efforts of congress, the U.S. would likely be near 20% unemployement. Praying will do nothing to help things.
J commented at 3/19/2010 2:31:00 PM:
Magazines and newspapers are moving more toward online digital formats because it is cheaper and that's where people are getting their news and information these days. This particular industry is just a casualty of future innovation. It really has nothing to do with what any government entity has done in this case. The good news is that when one industry comes to an end then something else naturally grows to accommodate the new innovation. The key is to see where the curve is headed and to try to attract businesses that will be booming in the future.
Dhiimond Jackson commented at 3/19/2010 5:14:00 PM:
Mark, I'm sorry if YOU feel that praying does nothing. That's exactly why the world is like it is today. If you wanted to comment on my statement, fine. But you didn't have to go there with your ignorant opinion that prayer does not work.
Just because you are perhaps an Atheist and not a Christian, it doesn't mean for you to tear down those of us who believe in prayer. Likewise, I don't believe in ignorant men like you who don't believe in God. Go get a Bible in your hand and THEN come back to talk to me on a spiritual level!
JustMe commented at 3/19/2010 8:32:00 PM:
I am one of the many 219 ppl working at the plant. Yes, everyone's prayers are much needed. I have said many a prayer for the one's that have been in this situation before me and still pray for them now. God is GOOD and there is a way to make it through this. I am a single parent and times are hard but God is my rock! He always makes a way. God Bless
David Conner commented at 3/21/2010 4:20:00 PM:
I'm a current emploayee at Domtar. I am a husband and a father of 3. My wife is currently a stay at home mom. The recent news has been devistating to all of us at the plant. You would think that of all things paper would be a pretty safe industry to work in. I suppose we were wrong. With every thing going paperless and people getting their magazines, books, and news papers online these days; it was only a matter of time. Domtar was pretty good to its employees. The did their best to see to it that their employees didn't draw a day of unemployment and they should be commended for that. Never the less the fact remains that 219 of us just lost our jobs. Things have really gotten bad in the area. The Government needs to quite worrying about what is happening over seas and worry about its own people. I guess they won't be happy until everyone is out onn the street and starving. I suppose that all we can do is pray.