CROSSETT, Ark. (From news reports) -- Things are starting to look up for the city of Crossett after more than 500 employees were cut from the town's Georgia Pacific mill.
"There were a lot of people who were saying crazy things like 'Rest in Peace Crossett' because of what happened at Georgia Pacific but instead of Rest in Peace it's get off of your fanny and get back on your feet," Director of Crossett Economic Development Foundation, Mike Smith said.
Georgia-Pacific announced last June that it would shut down part of their facility, affecting nearly 600 workers.
As a result, the company permanently shut down the bleached board machines, as well as the extrusion plant, woodyard, pulp mill and a significant portion of the energy complex.
In August of last year, the company also announced it would shut down the Sparkle paper towel line, affecting about 25 employees.
The Crossett Economic Development has worked hard since the announcement to bring other industries in.
"That's what our community has done. We've picked up ourselves. We've gotten over the surprise of the announcement that Georgia Pacific announced to us and we're moving forward."
Georgia Pacific announced news last week that now makes many believe there is still a future for the plant in the region. They plan to invest $37 million into operations at the Crossett mill.
"We've been trying to get the word out," Public Affairs Manager, Jennifer King said. "It's great news for Crossett. It's great news for Ashley County. Even after the difficult 2019, we're still the largest employer in Ashley County so this is incredibly exciting news for us."
The investment will go towards infrastructure, information technology and production line improvements. King said this investment would put the mill in a "strategic position to be highly competitive in the marketplace."
Executives also announced the Sparkle paper towel line would remain open after announcing it would close last December.
"Customer demand has been growing and we continue to see it growing in the near future," King said.
The Crossett Economic Development Foundation believes that this is a step in the right direction for the town and employees.
"It looks really good for the long term success of this operation and for long term employment for the people in our community,"
The foundation has been working to seek other areas of employment for the skilled workers across southeast Arkansas. One company that expressed interest in coming is now more sure of their existence in the town.
"Arkansas Renewable Fuels has indicated that they are definitely interested in building an advanced bio refinery in the Crossett Industrial Park," Smith said.
The foundation is helping the bioenergy company write a $17 million grant to start the first phase of the process. The company won't know if they received the grant until June or July but they plan to break ground regardless.
"They indicate they're coming whether they are successful with this grant or not," he said.
The company may not come until late this year but the economic impact is worth the wait.
"It could create as many as 200 or more new jobs in Crossett directly and probably as many support jobs to support the raw material needs of that company," Smith said.
The company has said that Crossett is the ideal place to break ground, bragging about the area's rich resources that would benefit their company.
"The intent is to use the pine that they have in this part of the state as one of their main raw material ingredients," he said. "Of course, we have the infrastructure with the rail line that they need to move their products to their customers and we have the skillsets."