I assume there is a whole generation of citizens who are unacquainted with the wisdom of Mae West. For those who don’t know her, Mae West was an actress and screenwriter during the early years of the American film industry. She was famous for many notable one-liners, but my favorite is, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Believe me, rich is better.”
I am encouraged by the response of community leaders to the impending closure of the IP mill in Millersburg. Representatives of local businesses and government met earlier this week to come up with ideas about how to respond to the closure. I don’t think there will be any quick solution to the problems created by this blow to the economy, but I know the community needs to actively work together to make something positive happen.
A front-page newspaper story about the meeting inspired a retired IP worker to call me with some ideas about possible reuse of the site. These kinds of connections are the foundation of long-term solutions. A meeting scheduled for next month with Oregon’s economic development director will also send a message that Albany-Millersburg is not simply waiting around to see what happens. The more energy and activity that can be created around the issue, the greater the likelihood the site will return to productive use.
The mill closure may seem like an abstract problem to people who don’t know any IP employees. The plant’s location in Millersburg may also cause Albany residents to think that the effects here will be relatively small. A former mill manager estimated that for every job lost at the plant, three jobs would disappear in the surrounding communities. Suppliers, contractors, professionals, and merchants will all feel the loss of so many high-paying jobs. Direct revenue loss to Albany city government will not be as high as it is in Millersburg, but the projected loss next year could cover the salaries and benefits of as many as four employees.
To paraphrase Mae West, I’ve been employed and I’ve been unemployed. Believe me, employed is better. I think it’s a worthy goal to unite behind an increased community effort to retain existing jobs, create new jobs, and assist those who are currently without work. Albany’s Strategic Plan places heavy emphasis on building a healthy economy, recognizing that economic security is a fundamental part of making the town a good place to live. The first response is a good one that needs to be sustained by the whole community.