Beginning Sunday, the mill will close down all production. Mill manager Ed Locke blames supply and demand and skyrocketing natural gas prices for the shutdown. "We're just over capacity right now in our business. The economy has slowed down a little bit and we don't know how long it's gonna last. It's a little bit cyclical in our business. The fourth quarter and the first quarter are usually a little bit slower than the other parts of the year," Locke says.
Locke says the mill's monthly payroll totals about two million dollars. He says all the workers are eligible for unemployment, but most employees have built up vacation of six weeks or more and they'll use it so they can still get paid while off the job. Employee Jim Slater says, "Those that have vacation and haven't taken it for this year can use that and that's one thing the mill's doin' to help us out."
Lorenzo Smith has worked at IP 23 years. He says he'll take vacation and apply for unemployment to maintain his income. Smith says they knew the shutdown was coming, but they didn't expect it until next month. "We've been anticipatin' it to come but it's longer than normal. [cue] This is longer than we've ever been down before," Smith says. Even so, Locke says the shutdown is not unusual this time of year. He says other mills are closing too. "We're rotating these around. We're not taking the full brunt of this here. Most of our mills are taking some downtown in this period of time." A tough decision, Locke say, but necessary to ensure the Moss Point mill stays competitive and in business.