After taking a beating since 2008, Virginia’s economy is finally getting some good news.
International Paper Co., which shut down its Franklin plant in 2009, will reopen part of it next year and hire 213 workers.
When the plant closed, taking with it about 1,000 jobs, tiny Franklin was decimated. The foul-smelling pulp mill had been a linchpin of the rural Tidewater economy for years.
Memphis-based International will invest $83 million to install new equipment to make fluff pulp, which is a wood product used in baby diaper and wipes.
The announcement is a boost for Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell, who used $350,000 from the Govenor’s Opportunity Fund to help Isle of Wight County and Franklin get the deal.
The plant may also be a boon to the Democrats, since former gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, is negotiating with International to use other, shut-down parts of the plant to make wood pellets. International says it is evaluating several proposals.
The plant was built by Union Camp, now part of International Paper, and won praise from environmentalists in 1973 for donating 49,100 acres of timberland to help form the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Suffolk and Chesapeake.