Jackson County Looks For New IP Mill Possibilities

The Thursday red beans and rice special used to pack them in at Faye's Kitchen. But when International Paper closed its Moss Point mill last year, the diner across the street suffered. Faye's lunch crowd dropped by as much as 50 percent.

L.C. Triplett and his wife run the restaurant. "We've laid off three people already," Triplett said. "The next step will be closing down."

In the year since International Paper announced the mill had to close, former plant employees have had their share of problems. Moss Point resident Ralph Davis knows a number of the former workers.

"Friends of mine, people I know that depended on that mill for a living to support their families," Davis said, "they've had to get out and go somewhere else."

Davis serves on a Moss Point active citizens committee that's trying to breathe new life into the nearly vacant mill.

"There is a future for it," Davis said. "We don't know exactly what it is. But we have got a future."

Jackson County economic development leaders can't say what's in IP's future, because right now they don't know. What they can say is steps are being taken to eventually market the mill and its adjoining 300 acres of land, so it can once again create jobs for Jackson County.

George Freeland is the executive director of the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation. "In a general sense," Freeland said, "we can say that we are aggressively moving to reposition the site for economic development."

Freeland said it will be at least two years before anything happens at the Moss Point mill. The Tripletts hope that whenever something happens, they'll still be serving their lunchtime meals.

International Paper closed about the same time that Rohm and Haas announced it was leaving Moss Point. The closings caused Jackson County's unemployment rate to jump to 6.5 percent.