What about planning for the future?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 20, 2007

If we had to guess, we would venture to say Linden Lumber will close its doors before the first of December. This is a sad notion, but it seems to be the growing reality.

After laying off 85 employees &8212; 20 percent of the workforce they were trying to save &8212; Linden Lumber leaders have all but killed their chances for obtaining a $7 million loan from the county.

Commissioners have said they will continue to do the due diligence they promised, and at least one commissioner has given his unfettered support. That said, the layoffs indicate that when all is said and done, the financial outlook for the company will not be strong enough for commissioners to approve the bond.

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It should come as no surprise that Linden Lumber has been working for several months to find a potential buyer. In recent weeks, rumors have persisted that a buyer was close to making an offer. However, it looks as if that buyer &8212; were the rumor true &8212; has now lost interest or at least grown cool to the idea.

In short, the future looks bleak for Linden Lumber. What is at stake is the livelihood of 340 employees and their families.

We hope that the county commission, City of Linden leaders, Congressman Artur Davis and state leaders will now start looking at what can be done to help alleviate the pain that will be caused if Linden Lumber is forced to close its doors.

In the short term, state assistance and job relocation programs can help in bridging the chasm between employment and unemployment. It is realistic that a large percentage of those who lose jobs will be able to find new ones within weeks. But those weeks will be costly. And for those who cannot find new work immediately, the hardships will be even worse.

But long-term, the county and the City of Linden should give real consideration to joining efforts with the City of Demopolis to form a true, countywide economic development board.

If we are to grow, to attract the tiered businesses that support the major industries in Alabama and Mississippi, then we must work together.

Economic development and recruitment has changed drastically over the last 25 years, and we are not as well situated as we need to be to help lure large industries to our area.

We must focus on infrastructure improvement, job force training, incentive programs and a multitude of other items required by interested businesses when evaluating a possible location to expand.

In the past year, the City of Demopolis lost more than 100 jobs when Southern Pride Catfish shut down their plant here. If Linden Lumber closes, that number will triple. Short-term help is needed, but long-term, regional planning is an absolute must.