“PORT ST. JOE — When the paper mill closed in 1998, this Panhandle city had a collective heart attack.
The town’s largest employer by far, the closing eliminated more than 800 jobs. Its impact spread farther: The paper mill was the largest property taxpayer, the largest user of natural gas, the largest electric utility customer.
“It was the largest everything,” Mayor Mel Magidson Jr. said. “We went from a county with very low unemployment to the highest unemployment rate in the state.”
The ripple continued 10 years later. Two chemical plants, which used a byproduct of the paper mill in their production, closed in the past two years, taking 80 to 100 jobs each.
The St. Joe Co., Florida’s largest landowner, had sold the paper mill and associated box plant in the mid 1990s. When the new owner shut down the plants, the land reverted back to St. Joe…”
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