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City breathes sigh of relief

DEMOPOLIS &045;&045; "Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas to the city of Demopolis, to Gulf States and the workers."

Jay Shows may have put it best Wednesday morning after word spread that union employees at Gulf States Paper Co. finally passed a work contract. Over the past 11 months, they had seen three other contract proposals and rejected every one of them.

No one better understood how "great" Wednesday’s news was than Mayor Cecil Williamson.

Ever since members of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical&Energy Workers International Union first rejected Gulf States’ contract offer, citizens in Demopolis have worried about the impact of a possible work-stoppage or, even worse, a mill closure.

Williamson’s faith appears to have been in the right place, and local retailers like Kim McNeill couldn’t be happier.

Along with other retailers, McNeill has sensed the apprehension of an entire community as company and union officials hammered through the contract negotiations. At one point, McNeill felt the contract dispute even had an impact on the way people made purchases in Demopolis.

Now, that concern can be countered with excitement &045;&045; especially considering the bonus all hourly employees at the mill received this week.

According to most economic agencies, a tax dollar spent in any given community turns over at least four more times.

While citizens in Demopolis breathed a unison sigh of relief on Wednesday, Williamson and Shows could finally ponder the worst hypothetical situation &045;&045; a closure of the mill.

In the long run, Shows said a loss of the Demopolis industry could have created an enormous gap in the economic stability of the community.

Williamson agreed, and said a loss of Gulf States could have had "a huge impact on the city of Demopolis."

According to Shows, losing the industry could have cut the local economy by at least 30 percent.