State to help International Paper workers before mill closes - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

State to help International Paper workers before mill closes

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LAWRENCE COUNTY, AL (WAFF) -

State and local leaders are trying to fill a major void coming to Lawrence County after the announcement last week that International Paper is closing its Courtland Mill by the end of March.

More than 1,100 workers will lose their jobs, and the county, the school system, Courtland and North Courtland will lose their biggest tax generator.

State Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and state Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton, held a news conference Thursday to discuss immediate help for the workers and about bringing more businesses to Lawrence County. It was held at the future Jack Daniel's barrel factory in Trinity.

They said the Governor's Rapid Response Team will go to the International Paper mill next week to help employees with anything from job placement and unemployment benefits to worker training programs and education.

"You may have people who have been employed out there such a long time that a high school education was not required," Johnson said. "And now we may need to help them with their GED or we may need to help them with further training. That's just part of what they'll do.

"There'll even be credit counseling made available to some who will need that."

The Jack Daniel's cooperage is expected to open early next year. It's the anchor and, right now, the only business at the Mallard Fox West Industrial Complex.

Hubbard said the Alabama Department of Commerce has made it a top priority to bring more businesses there and the International Paper mill site.

Hubbard and Johnson said the state will try to lure several businesses into Lawrence County. The Jack Daniel's factory will eventually provide 200 hundred jobs.

Hubbard said the state is offering incentives to businesses to come to the county and build around that progress.

"We're working hand in glove with the Department of Commerce. Secretary (Greg) Canfield used to serve in the House, so we're friends," Hubbard said. "I've been on the phone with him, as has Representative Johnson.

"And he has pledged to both of us that they will actually make this a focus."

Hubbard said there will soon be an announcement about a business coming to Lawrence County, but added he could not elaborate until it is official.

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