Bright future is upon us

Published 10:25 pm Friday, April 16, 2010

It seemed just like yesterday — or at least before the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement — that every community in the south housed a large textile facility or other large manufacturing-type facility.

Until recently our neighboring city, Franklin, fit that description to a “T.” International Paper was the company nearly everyone worked for, or at least a member of every family worked for.

Generations of men and women called that company their home until the paper industry slowed and International Paper leaders decided to shutter the plant last fall.

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This week saw the mills active for the last time, and many of those workers punched their time card at IP for the last time.

This event has been repeated far too many times over the past few decades, and, in the midst of a continued economic slowdown, it will unfortunately occur some more.

American-made products are becoming a rarity, it seems, and the hard work and sweat of the American worker has been replaced by the much cheaper labor of overseas markets.

But while IP’s closure is a sad moment in Franklin’s and this area’s history, it is only a speed bump in this area’s history.

The success of that International Paper facility, and the textile mills throughout the south, was not simply the result of the machinery or the buildings, but rather the workers who worked those machines and the workers who showed up shift after shift to bring those buildings to life.

In rallying its community in this darkened hour, our sister newspaper, “The Tidewater News” in Franklin, wrote the following:

“Amid the necessary urgency to create new jobs, we must not abandon our resolve to forcefully address our problems. They are substantial but conquerable. Prospective employers aren’t looking for perfection when they seek out a place to create new jobs. They are looking for a community that’s on the ball, that meets the challenges head on and never concedes defeat.”

If ever there was a group of people who never concedes defeat, it is the men and women who call Franklin, Southampton County and the Tidewater area of Virginia home.

Economic slowdowns have happened in the past and they will undoubtedly happen in the future, but it is the greatest resource in this area that always brings it back — its people.

We stand alongside our neighbors today in a moment of silence for a large employer that has moved on, and for those who now find themselves without a job, but tomorrow we will join them in an earnest search for a replacement and a brighter, stronger future for our entire area.