Bentley: State has few options in International Paper mill closing

MGN Online
MGN Online

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – The state is continuing to talk with International Paper about the future of its Lawrence County facility, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said, however, company officials haven’t indicated there’s anything the state can do to keep the plant open.

International Paper announced last week that it will close the north Alabama mill because of declining demand, a move that will affect more than 1,100 jobs in the Tennessee Valley.

Representatives of the Memphis, Tenn.-based company said the plant in Courtland will shut down by early 2014.

The TimesDaily reported Tuesday that Bentley said the state wouldn’t be able to quickly offer the company anything without approval from the Legislature, which doesn’t meet until January.

“This is really the reason why we have to have something for existing businesses in this state,” Bentley said. “We have absolutely nothing at present time that would help a company like this if they were going to close,” he said. “We have to have ability to move quickly.”

The circumstances show that Alabama needs to work harder to offer businesses incentives to stay in the state, some Alabama lawmakers have said.

“You need to have a program to retain jobs,” said state Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia. “We get excited about ribbon cuttings and that’s all fine and good, but you have to be able to retain them from there.”

Bentley supported two pieces of legislation in 2012 that would have allowed voters to change the state constitution to allow certain companies to keep employees tax withholdings to pay for new equipment costs, facility expansions and capital improvements. One of the laws, House Bill 160, passed in the House but didn’t come up for a vote in the Senate.

State Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, opposed the bill – as some other Democrats did – and said it was because the tax provision of the legislation would have kept money from the state’s education budget.

State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, told the newspaper his concern with the bill was how the state would determine when incentives would help companies stay in business.

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Information from: TimesDaily

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