10/06/07 – Courtesy of Terre Haute Tribune-Star

International Paper closes up shop in the Wabash Valley

TERRE HAUTE — After they walked out the doors of International Paper for the last time, several workers — now unemployed — gathered across the street at Tom Cats bar Friday.

The paper mill, which most recently employed 156 people, has closed for good.

The company announced its decision to close in May, and in August, employees learned the official October closing date, after it was determined that Terre Haute’s limited production capacity hindered the mill’s long-term competitiveness.

Those gathered at Tom Cats said they went to work for about three hours Friday, although they spent the time shaking hands and “saying our final good-byes,” said Jim Lewis, 47, who had worked at the plant for three years and previously worked at Columbia House — which also closed.

“It’s the end. There’s no more,” said Randy Orndorff, who worked at International Paper for 31/2 years.

Those interviewed are concerned about being able to find jobs with comparable pay.

“Life’s in the balance,” Orndorff said. “You’re used to making good money,” but the jobs available in Terre Haute don’t pay what he’s used to making.

“Terre Haute should have more to offer,” Lewis said. Asked what he’ll do next, he said, “Search, beg, whatever it takes.”

Orndorff, Pam Morgan and Sara Girton — all left unemployed with the paper mill’s closing — plan to take advantage of benefits through the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, available to workers who are displaced due to foreign imports or shifts in production out of the country.

The three hope to pursue additional education and receive extended unemployment benefits during that time, technically called “trade re-adjustment allowances” after their regular unemployment runs out.

Lewis said he may seek additional training but isn’t sure yet what he’ll do. “I’m in suspense what’s going to happen. Everybody here, the bills kind of match what they make and everybody’s worried about how the bills are going to get paid,” he said.

Jobs that pay $10 to $13 per hour “won’t get it done,” Lewis said. He had previously worked at Columbia House for 261/2 years.

The plant closing is a double blow for Pam Morgan and her husband; they both worked at the paper mill. She had worked there 111/2 years.

“In all honesty, I’m relieved. It’s over,” Morgan said. “I can get on with my life.”

When Weston Paper was purchased by International Paper, rumors circulated that the company closed smaller mills.

Still, “We thought we had promise,” Morgan said. “We met everything they wanted us to meet and they still shut us down.”

She’s considering a new job in medical transcription.

Morgan, who has no mortgage or car payment, said she’s better off than some.

“We’re going to be fine,” she said. “The people who have $1,000 a month mortgages, I don’t know what they’re going to do. It’s scary.”

Similar to Lewis, Girton also had worked at Columbia House.

“We got the double shutdown,” Lewis said.

Girton, who worked at International Paper for three years, is considering studying surgical technology. Noting that Health South also shuts its doors this week, “That’s a lot of people without jobs and there ain’t nothing out there,” she said.

While her boyfriend has a good-paying job, “It’s going to be tough,” Girton said.

The employees don’t blame anyone in Terre Haute for what has happened, but they do blame the company.

“They don’t care about employees, but about profit,” Morgan said.

Derrick Bates, the mill’s human resources manager, said the mill shut down its paper machine Sunday afternoon and has used the past week to take apart equipment and clean up.

“We had a large appreciation meal Thursday and a silent auction to raise money for charity,” which was Light House Mission, he said. People could bid on old furniture and file cabinets no longer needed. The silent auction raised about $3,000.

“We’re doing cleanup and getting things ready to have a non-working facility,” he said.

Even though workers knew the plant was shutting down, they did their jobs and showed a strong work ethic until the end, Bates said.

“I commend the workforce for the job they’ve done, especially over the last two months, which was a very stressful time for everyone,” Bates said. “Our safety has been without reproach. Any company would be fortunate to work with the group we have out here.”

About a dozen workers will be employed for several more weeks to prepare the facility for sale or any other options.

On Friday, employees left for the last time and took their personal items.

Some of the mill’s equipment will be sent to other International Paper facilities, Bates said.

He anticipates many employees will take advantage of the benefits available through the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program.

“TAA benefits have opened opportunities people hadn’t previously thought about,” Bates said. “Even folks considering retirement are now considering getting advanced training.”

Some employees have chosen to retire, and others have already found new jobs, he said.

Mill manager Jeff Brown praised the work ethic of the mill’s employees. “We have run this mill very effectively and efficiently for many years, and we did it right up to the end. It’s a tribute to the employees of the mill,” he said.

Brown, who also is looking for new employment with the plant’s closing, plans to stay in the Terre Haute community.

09/04/07 Courtesy of Terre Haute Tribune-Star
Michael Schlapp, 72, of Farmersburg died at 5 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 2, 2007, in his residence. He was born Feb. 10, 1935, in Pugerberg, Germany, to Georg Schlapp and Barbara Roppelt. He retired in 1997 from Wabash Fibre Box Co.Survivors include his wife, Barbara A. Schlapp; sons, Gilbert Reynolds, William Reynolds and wife Rhonda, all of Indiana, and Charles Reynolds and wife Gina of Maryland; three daughters, Emily Cooley and husband Ed of North Carolina, Monica Oschinger and husband Dieter, and Hedwig Schlapp, all of Germany; two sisters, Hedwig Kraus and husband Leo, and Marianne Brehm, all of Germany; 15 grandchildren; a special grandson living at home, Michael G. Schlapp; 22 great-grandchildren; several brothers and sisters-in-law of the Kutch family; and numerous nieces, nephews and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents; and one son, Georg M. Schlapp.He was a charter member of the German Oberlander Club.There are no services. Cremation is scheduled. Mattox-Ryan Funeral Home assisted with arrangements.

1/22/07: Courtesy of Terre Haute Tribune-Star
Betty Lou Borgman, 73, of Terre Haute died at 8:45 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19, 2007 in Union Hospital. She was employed at Wabash Fibre Box. She was born March 10, 1933 to Francis King and Ruth Elliot King. Her husband, Donald C. Borgman of Terre Haute, whom she married Dec. 2, 1972, survives her. Also surviving are six children, Brenda O’Neal and her husband John of Terre Haute, Brad Harris and his wife Becky of Avon, Becky Doti and her husband David of Terre Haute, Fran Blackburn and her husband Bill of Decatur, Ill., Stephen Borgman and his wife Sharon of Decatur, and Jan Houser and her husband Rick of Terre Haute; one sister, Laverne Bemis of Terre Haute; two sisters-in-law, Mildred King and Pat King, both of Terre Haute; 17 grandchildren; 19 great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild; and several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by three brothers, Earl King, Russ King and Robert King. She was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church.Services are 1 p.m. Tuesday in Trinity Lutheran Church, with the Rev. Roger Herrig officiating. Burial is in Roselawn Memorial Park. Visitation is 4 to 8 p.m. Monday in DeBaun Springhill Chapel, and noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday in the church.

  1. Les Brown says:

    steve I just found out about your website from Ron Hanks. Nice to hear news from good people Les Brown

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