Gates accentuates positive at council meeting

Published 10:59 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Linden has certainly been hit hard over the past several weeks, from lost jobs at Linden Lumber, once the second-largest employer in the county, to the news that Caurastar was closing its tube plant, which had been a steady industrial anchor in the city for over 20 years.

Caraustar Industries Inc., one of North America’s largest manufacturers of recycled paperboard, told employees in Linden last week that the plant will close within the next couple of months.

The closure will affect approximately 20 salaried and hourly employees.

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Linden Lumber, who at one time had employed more than 600 people, scaled down its workforce to a skeleton crew of 69 workers this fall. It was the third layoff for the company, shaving over 125 jobs.

Linden mayor Mitzi Gates addressed the city’s misfortune at Tuesday’s city council meeting, saying more setbacks are likely, but there are also some bright areas of growth.

“I know we have been hit pretty hard with small industries in Linden either laying off employees or announcing they are closing,” said Gates. “I just want to remind everyone that this does not have anything to do with Linden. It is happening everywhere. I know that things look dark and there are some darker days ahead for some industries like that, but I also think that some great things are about to happen here in Linden.”

Gates pointed to a few examples of small businesses in Linden experiencing growth or even looking at expanding.

One example is Farley Forest Products. Based in Tuscaloosa, the company has a second location in Linden where they produce wood chips.

“It was very uplifting to talk to Tim Farley when we came in to renew his business license,” said Gates. “He is very excited about being in Linden and is looking to expand — mostly because of the need for wood chips for the new ethanol plant in Boligee.”

Gates also said the Merle Norman and Silver Shears store in Linden had recently added another person and was experiencing some growth, and The Whistle Stop restaurant in Toxey, Ala., is still expected to open a second location in Linden.

“We are going to hang in there and be positive,” Gates added.

She also said that Debra Fox, the Marengo County Economic Development Director, is working on some positive industrial developments for Linden.

“Debra has done an excellent job for the people of Linden and Marengo County to help us through these times,” said Gates. “She is working on some projects now that we hope will mean more growth and better job opportunities for the people of Linden. She is one of the best things to happen to this area.”

In other business:

The Linden City Council met behind closed doors briefly in executive session. When they emerged, councilman Richard Lankster made a motion to change the city’s hiring policy. Beginning on Feb. 1, all new employees hired by the city will be under a one-year probation period instead of the standard three- to six-month probation.

“This will give us enough opportunity to measure a new employee’s performance,” said Gates. “The employees will still get the usual 5-percent raise after being with the city for six months.”

The motion was seconded by Dennis Breckenridge and passed unanimously.