Picayune Plant Closing, Leaving 40 Workers Unemployed

Picayune is the latest community to be hit hard by job losses. Arizona Chemical will shut down early next year, leaving nearly 40 people out of work.

It's the third company this year to pull out of Picayune. Nearly 80 people lost jobs when B-Way, a tin can maker closed in March. Twenty more jobs disappeared with the closure of creative controllers, a computer board maker.

Arizona Chemical has meant a high paying job for Doyce Walley for more than two years. The maintenance technician says he hates to see the company close.

"I think it's a sad thing. A lot of good people are losing good jobs. [It's] probably one of the best places to work in Picayune," Walley said.

"I'll just have to go back to working in construction that's what I done before I came here."

Arizona Chemical's demise will have an impact beyond the plant and its 38 workers.

Helen Peterson manages a convenience store located across the street from the Arizona Plant.

"This is a big businesses and we get a lot from them. They buy a lot of food, a lot of gas, everything from us. I hate to see them close down myself."

Ron Russell is Pearl River County's Economic Development Director. He says he and others are working hard to bring new industry and the jobs they create into the county.

"We're doing a target market study right now where we can determine where we want to spend our time and effort, and what type companies would be interested in our area. We're taking a rifle approach instead of a shotgun approach."

Economic development leaders say many companies are heading overseas for a lower wage work force.

"They pay, I've heard, a dollar a day. Ten dollars a week. You just can't complete with those type wages," Russell said.

That's why he says high tech companies that require skilled labor may be the ticket for the community.

The study being conducted for the county should be finished within a few months.

Economic development leaders say before Arizona Chemical closes they will work with employees to help place them in new jobs.

by Al Showers