EDITORIAL: International Paper investment welcomed news

Published 10:34 pm Saturday, September 23, 2017

An announcement made Friday morning out of Memphis, Tennessee, has Selma singing anything but the blues.

International Paper made public its plans to invest $300 million at its Riverdale Mill in Selma. The investment will convert one of the mill’s two paper machines from producing office paper to board used in consumer packaging.

The change won’t necessarily mean more jobs for Selma and Dallas County, but it should mean job security for those who do work at the mill for a long, long time. After all, companies don’t put $300 million in plants they plan to shut down anytime soon.

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“It’s a growing market,” said Riverdale Mill communications manager Arthur McLean said about why the plant was making a change. “You think about all of the things that come in those kinds of packaging, and it’s a growing market for us.”

International Paper is Dallas County’s largest employer with 750 employees. The mill celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, but there has been concern over the last few years about the plant’s future in the changing paper industry.

It’s no surprise that people are using less and less office paper. Emails have replaced faxes and memos.

When International Paper made the difficult decision to close its plant in Courtland in 2014, many people shuttered to think what if that had been Selma.

Friday’s announcement should ease those concerns.

The mill’s hard-working employees and their families have to be ecstatic about the news. One employee might have said it best when he shared the story from Saturday’s Times-Journal on his Facebook page: “My bread and butter — God is good.”

All of Dallas County should be ecstatic about the news.

Selma and Dallas County Economic Development Authority executive director Wayne Vardaman said he had seen some large capital investments over the years, but $300 million is unlike anything else.

“It says they’ve got confidence in the community and everything or they wouldn’t make that investment here. They’d make it somewhere else,” Vardaman said. “I think it’s recognizing the market they’re in is more of a shrinking market, and they need to be in another market. They made the decision to do it, and there’s nothing but positives all the way around.”