Thursday Roundup: Town to Lose 1,100 Jobs

Town loses more jobs than it has residents • Indian mental health programs and sequestration • Radio station pulls Neil Young in response to rocker’s comments • Colorado has emergency services “dead zones” • Corn exports drop • Critical access hospitals remain in the news.

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Ala. Paper Plant Closure to Idle 1,100. The largest employer in Lawrence County, Alabama, International Paper, is closing its plant there, leaving 1,100 without jobs.

The plant is located in Courtland, a town of 769 residents. Lawrence County, in northeast Alabama, is part of the Decatur metropolitan area. But it’s adjacent to a swath of rural counties sandwiched between Huntsville and Birmingham. 

International Paper’s board of directors blamed the closure on lack of demand for “uncoated freesheet paper.” The corporation decided to close the plant rather than retool it to produce other types of paper. “We explored numerous business and re-purposing options for the Courtland Mill, but concluded that permanently closing the mill best positions the business for the future,” according to a statement from the paper company. The story appears in  Al.com.

International Paper accounts for about 7.7% of the jobs in Lawrence County, according to a Daily Yonder analysis. The county is still down 1,000 jobs from its prerecession levels, before the new job losses are taken into account. (See county by county job losses from 2007 to 2013 in this Daily Yonder story.)

Indian Mental Health Services. NPR has a report on the impact of sequestration cuts on Native American mental health services. The federal funding cuts resulted in a 5% reduction in mental health services in Indian country. “That’s especially troubling for Native Americans, whose suicide rate are four times the national average,” reports NPR’s Laurel Morales.

“Who’s Neil Young?” A radio station in Fort McMurray has pulled Neil Young’s music from its playlist after the rock-n-roller said the city in Alberta, Canada, is a wasteland because of tar-sands mining in the area, CTV News reports.

Young made his comments at this week’s National Farmers Union Legislative Fly-In in Washington, D.C. He was speaking in favor of renewable fuel standards, which promote the use of plant-based fuels like ethanol to replace fossil fuels. Young opposes construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would move material from the tar-sands mines in Canada to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

“The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima,” Young said. “There’s fumes everywhere. You can smell it when you get to town.”

Before enacting the ban on Young’s music, Chris Byrne, a DJ at Fort McMurray’s Rock 97.9, asked listeners to sound off via email.  CTV reports:

About 600 replied to Byrne’s survey. About 44 per cent wanted to keep Young on the air, 36 never wanted to hear him again and the rest asked, “Who cares?” or “Who’s Neil Young?”

“Rock listeners are pretty apathetic people,” said Byrne.

(The Daily Yonder will have more on the National Farmers Union Legislative Fly-In tomorrow, in Richard Oswald’s “Letter from Langdon.”)

EMS “Dead Zones.” Denver’s NBC affiliate does some number crunching to create a good enterprise story on the disparity between emergency medical services in rural versus urban areas in Colorado. Wait times for ambulances in remote counties are much longer, reporter Will Ripley says. And that can make a difference between life and death, according to medical professionals.

Ripley examined a decade of highway fatality data and compiled a death rate per 10,000 residents for each of Colorado’s counties. He found that rural, remote counties had much higher death rates than urban ones.

The story also examines the state’s patchwork EMS system, which results in emergency service “dead zones” that are underserved by ambulances and other first responders.

The graphics and map for the series look interesting. But unfortunately, they are illegibly small.

Corn Exports Fall. U.S. corn exports for 2012 are expected to be at their lowest level since 1970, report Daryll E. Ray and Harwood D. Schaffer of the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center, University of Tennessee-Knoxville. And, also for the first time since Richard Nixon was president, wheat exports exceeded corn exports, the professors report.

Ray and Schaffer’s weekly column, Policy Pennings, is available online through the Ag Policy Analysis Center.

Rural Hospitals Remain in the News Locally. Rural hospital advocates are keeping up the media pressure surrounding proposed changes in rules for designating critical access hospitals. A simple Google news search on “critical access hospitals” reveals pages of media reports in the last month on this issue. (And there’s bound to be more that this, since online searches barely scratch the surface of the smaller outlets that focus on rural communities.)

Just in the last day, here’s an article in the Clayton County Register of Elkader, Iowa, and an Associated Press report in the Herald and News of Klamath Falls, Oregon. The Albany (Oregon) Democrat-Herald has its own piece on how the change could affect its community’s hospital, Samaritan Lebanon Community. 

 

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