LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – When International Paper’s Courtland Mill closes in March the impact will reach far beyond its 1,100 employees in the small Lawrence County community.
You can travel for miles north or south of the mill site on County Road 150 in North Courtland and the only other business you will find is Sibley Food & Fuel.
The employees at the gas station say they are all too aware of the impact Wednesday’s mill announcement will have on their business, too.
“It’s going to be rough on the community,” a rubber gloved, hairnet clad eatery worker told a Sibley regular as she handed over his styrofoam box filled with fried food.
Whether stopping by for meatloaf, fried chicken, potato wedges or just to fuel up – the paper mill was the talk of the town at Sibley’s Thursday.
Cashier Tacarra Jones has worked at the Chevron store for a year and says she interacts with mill workers daily.
“We see a lot of people to come in and out of here who give us a lot of good business but it’s gonna change – period, point-blank,” Jones said matter-of-factly.
She says when the big logging trucks that rumble back and forth between the highway and the mill disappear next spring, the majority of the diesel fuel business at Sibley’s is sure to dry up.
“The people at the paper mill are the most frequent consumers of our diesel and all the food, so without that we lose a lot of money.”
The Courtland native says she has three children of her own to care for and wonders not only about what potential impact any job hunt mass exodus may have on Lawrence County’s school system – she wonders about her own job security.
“It’s going to effect me as well because I could lose my job here – what if business get so slow they don’t need me anymore?”
But Jones echoes the community sentiment here – she says this is about far more than dollars and figures.
“Families,” Jones nods, “families who are trying to figure out what they’re about to do and at this point I think the best thing for everybody to do is pray first of all, stick together as brothers and sisters and we just need to uplift one another.”