Editorial: Welcome … back!

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Bad news abounds but it's not all grim out there. Here, for week's end, are a couple of day-brighteners.

New life in Franklin

A week ago, if someone had said "fluff pulp" to a Hampton Roads resident, the most likely reaction would have been, "huh?"

In just a few days the euphoniously named product, a fiber made from southern pine trees and used in diapers and adult hygiene products, has joined the local vernacular.

That's thanks to Tuesday's announcement by International Paper Co. that it will reopen and repurpose part of the paper mill it abandoned in Franklin last April, when it put 1,100 people out of work.

The cautions are that with its promised $83 million investment it will only employ a fraction of the previous workforce — 213 workers — and will not start hiring until 2012 with no preference given to former employees.

For Isle of Wight County, which lost an estimated $5.7 million in tax revenue from the mill's closure, the news is welcome. Once it's operating, the "fluff pulp" manufacturing plant will provide approximately $800,000 in annual machinery and tools tax revenue.

Perhaps even more importantly, by International Paper remaining on site, its current state and federal environmental and water withdrawal permits remain in place. Without these regulatory hurdles, it will be easier for the county to attract additional manufacturers to the remaining two-thirds of the 1,200-acre site. These are essential to provide more jobs and help close the revenue gap. Just last week, the county's board of supervisors voted to raise the property tax by 13 cents to compensate for the loss from the mill's closure.

To bring the Tennessee-based company back to the Isle of Wight site, Gov. Bob McDonnell approved a $350,000 grant from the Governor's Opportunity Fund for the project and the state will also provide funding and services for recruitment and training.

"Fluff pulp" may not be a panacea for Franklin, but it offers a welcome promise of better times down the road.

'Run for the Dream'

Walter Segaloff, 1991 Daily Press Citizen of the Year and founder of An Achievable Dream that operates two Newport News public schools for low-income students, isn't known for doing things in half-measures. This weekend's "Run for the Dream" is no exception.

The inaugural races — a Masters 8K, half-marathon and children's fun run — to benefit An Achievable Dream and the Armed Forces Wounded Warrior program, are already creating a buzz locally and nationally.

More than 4,500 runners have registered and the Masters 8K has been designated as a national championship, a status almost unheard of for a first-time event. Consequently it is drawing elite runners from all over the world — 38 states and 6 countries — which will give the Colonial capital a much-needed early season tourist boost. National Geographic Traveler's edition also touted the event as "a run for history."

More than two years of planning, the judicious choice of corporate and college sponsors, the location that takes in historic Colonial Williamsburg and the scenic Colonial Parkway, and a supremely professional race organizer, are combining to make this an extraordinary launch for "Run for the Dream." Its annual status and future growth are virtually guaranteed by this auspicious start.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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