115-year-old paper factory blows the final whistle, 1,100 people become unemployed

CANTON, NC (WSPA) — Canton, a small town in Haywood County, is known as the “Paper Town.” The 115-year-old paper mill is visible from almost every angle. With the paper mill now set to close for good, the community said they are unsure what will happen.

“I can’t imagine life without the mill,” said Edie Burnette.

Like many others, 86-year-old Edie Burnette said the paper mill has always been a part of her life. She said for families in Canton, it’s the profession that’s passed down from generation to generation.

“I have a picture of my grandmother here in 1936 working in the office and she was chairman for 36 years and I have a picture of my grandfather starting in 1932 when he moved to Canton from Franklin, North Carolina. find work,” said George Stephens.

“It just got me jobs and education but the story of where I knew I worked right where my grandfather and father worked and we went to the classic car parties together when I was 25 years old mark,” said Beth Gray.

While it may seem that this is only having devastating effects on the locals, it is having an impact on the entire region.

The county said the impact is estimated at nearly $500 million. They said it is and that it is likely to continue to shut down businesses, such as those in the lumber industry, many of which are in the upstate.

Blaire Bishop, a Haywood County forest ranger, said 100,000 trucks of timber pass through the paper mill each year, with about half of them coming from the north of the state.

“This mill is a focal point for our industry and also for promoting sustainable forest management,” said Bishop.

For most workers, the loss means entry into a job market they haven’t experienced in decades.

Shelly White, president of Haywood County Community College, said she’s been looking at that side of the issue for the past few months.

“When we found out about the impending closure, we started working with our community partners on things like job fairs and helping workers refresh their resumes, online job searches and things like that,” White said.

For the future, residents said that while this was heartbreaking, they knew they would emerge stronger and closer than ever.

“Mountaineers are pretty tough and I think we’re going to survive one way or another,” Burnette said.

“It’s a sad day here in Canton, North Carolina, but with courage and grace we will all survive,” Stephens said.

While production at the plant halted on Wednesday, the plant will officially close on June 9th.

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