COURTLAND, Ala.(WHNT)-Layoffs have begun at Lawrence County's largest employer, and local leaders are now warning it will lead to job losses in other sectors too.
Courtland Mayor Clarence Logsdon told WHNT News 19 that layoffs for city employees and other cost-cutting measures are now inevitable due to the closure of the nearby International Paper mill. Union officials said International Paper released 83 of its 1,100 workers at the Courtland site during the first round of layoffs last week, with the rest of the operation set to be closed by the end of March.
Mayor Logsdon said close to half of his town's $700,000 annual budget is tied to revenue from International Paper, and called the mill's shutdown a crippling blow.
"It's going to be devastating to the town," said Logsdon. "We're probably gonna have to lay some people off, it's gonna come to that...It's an impact all the way down the system. If you lose that [paper mill], you don't have no traffic. And no traffic, that interrupts whatever revenue coming through, and if you don't have revenue, you can't go."
Small business owners are also expected to feel the squeeze from a significant reduction in customer traffic, with some Courtland residents wondering if their town will simply disappear.
"It's going to tear us wide open," said Courtland resident Paul Cottingham. "I've got five in my family that works there, and they don't have anything else to look forward to...that's the only place we have that people can make a living at."
Officials said the resulting domino effect from International Paper's closure could impact up to 2,000 other jobs in the area. International Paper cited a significant decline in demand for paper-based products when announcing the plant's shutdown earlier this year.