COURTLAND, Ala. (WHNT) – It’s been called a 5-month long funeral, but the end is drawing near. Next week, some 500 workers at Courtland’s International Paper mill will clock out for the last time. The company announced last year it was closing the facility, leaving many to wonder how the area will get by without its largest employer.
It’s quiet in downtown Courtland. Empty storefronts line what was once a thriving business district. Some say time could be running out for the old town. The only business open in the downtown area today was the hardware store, and they didn’t want to talk about it.
The area’s largest employer is shutting down. Next week, as International Paper idles its final 2 paper machines, some 500 employees will find themselves without a job.
Officials with International Paper once again declined our request for an on-camera interview Monday saying they were focused instead on the actual closing of the facility and on their employees.
A statement from the company says at the time the closure was announced last fall, 55% of their employees were eligible for some form of retirement. The statement does not say how many actually took retirement. Roughly a third of the employees, approximately 400, applied to be transferred to other International Paper facilities, resulting in job offers for 316 of them. Last November, the company sponsored a job fair which the statement says resulted in job offers for 80 of their employees.
There are those who say Courtland was tested years ago when the new highway was built that bypassed the town. And they say it will be tested yet again to see if it can survive the closing of the area’s largest employer.
A company spokesperson tells us about 200 employees will remain on the job for now to help with the transition.