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Effects of layoff felt county-wide

Linden’s Industrial Development Board was already working on attracting new industry and business to Linden, but that objective has become even more imperative after more than 150 people were laid off from Linden Lumber Company Thursday.

“We’re doing everything we can. We thought we had a $1 million grant to redo the airport, but we had to come up with matching funds and Linden doesn’t have that kind of money to throw around,” John Weaver of the Linden Industrial Development Board, said.

“We’re working to renovate the old factory building, putting in heating and air conditioning to get someone in there. We have 180 acres out there for someone to use, we can get taxes abated, we have two rail spurs and a main highway” Weaver said. “We’re doing what we can.”

Unfortunately, Weaver said, none of that will help in the immediate future – a time that a large portion of Marengo County needs it.

“(Layoffs) will affect the community drastically,” he said. “One hundred eighty people out of work – it’s a kick in the economy. Most families are two-income families, you lose one of those incomes, they’re hurting.”

“We got the new bridge put in, we thought that would open things up, but it hasn’t happened,” he said. Weaver said the board has also been in touch with Georgia Pacific, which had talked at one time about opening a warehouse in Linden.

“Hopefully, they still want to do that,” he said.

The board has been talking to other businesses as well, but nothing has come to fruition yet.

“We had a couple of outfits warming up before Ivan came through, we’re going to try and get that ginned back up,” Charles Ballas, another board member, said.

Weaver said the initiative to attract new business needs to be a county-wide effort, not just one by the Linden Board.

“The county has helped some, but we need to do this as a whole county, not just as the Linden Industrial Development Board, because these layoffs affect the whole county,” he said.

Jay Shows, director of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce, said the ramifications of the layoffs will be far-reaching, as most of those employees do their buying in Demopolis and other areas of Marengo County.

“Most of the individuals laid off did their primary shopping – groceries, clothing, fuel – in Marengo County,” he said. “A lot of that spills over to Demopolis.”

Not only are those residents not able to spend as much, but some have talked about moving out of the area in search of jobs. Shows said Marengo County’s job rate makes it next to impossible to handle the number of jobs lost in such a short time.

“Unemployment last month was 5.8 percent, that’s close to what is considered fully employed,” Shows said. “With 150 to 200 people immediately out of work, it’s hard to absorb that many jobs in a short amount of time. There just aren’t a lot of available jobs out there. They have to go where the jobs are.”