The economic impact of Pactiv Evergreen’s decision to close the Canton paper mill will be substantial. It is estimated that about 1,000 employees will be out of work by the summer, the majority of whom are Haywood County residents.
The 185-acre paper mill at the heart of Canton is the most visible sign of Pactiv Evergreen’s corporate presence in Haywood County, but they also own dozens of other parcels worth tens of millions of dollars.
The whistle at Canton’s paper mill talked to me daily, sending the reassuring message that the mill was producing paper and employees were busy at their jobs. Security. Dependability. Reliable employment. Income. Pride.
At 94 years young, Ben Best is proud of several things in his long, bountiful life — a marriage of 67 years and counting, raising three healthy sons, being a grandfather, a loyal friend to many, and a hard-scrabble Haywood County farmer.
“The mill.” In Canton, as in hundreds of other towns across America, that was the only description needed to describe the factory that drove a small town’s economy, which generations depended on for their livelihood and some for their very identity.
It’s 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Southern Porch restaurant in the heart of downtown Canton. Less than 24 hours ago, the mountain community received word that its century-old paper mill would close this summer.