New life could be coming to dried-up Lufkin companies

By Holley Nees - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The Recession left many East Texans looking for new jobs and long-time companies drying up, but some of those abandoned companies may now have a new lease on life.

After the company went dark months ago, Citation has been bought and the Abitibi paper mill is on it's way to being sold.

"The people that are buying the plant site, they're re-developers," said Angelina County Director of Economic Development Jim Wehmeier.  "Their interest is to turn it into a multi-user industrial facility."

Wehmeier said the local buyers of Citation have similar plans in mind.

"It's got a lot of assets and a layout that would allow it to be broken up in a number of smaller users instead of one large company," said Wehmeier.

He said it will take time to see how many jobs will be created.

"They both could create hundreds of jobs, but they could create less too," said Wehmeier.  "It'll take some time for that all to work itself out."

Former Citation employees are thankful for the new opportunities, but they're not looking back.

"The foundry gave me the opportunity to work in the Information Technology Department and by doing so I discovered where my passion really was, what I wanted to do," said former Citation employee Richard Clevenger.

"I'm glad, the community needs the jobs and I wouldn't discourage anybody from going to work out there," said former Citation Employee Bill Tindall.

After 43 years, Tindall's friend, classmate, and former co-worker, Randy Rowland also moved on.

"No, I see so many doors opening by completing this course and gaining the associate degree that I don't see those same doors at 1601 Raguet," said Rowland.

However, for the local economy, the old foundry does mean the chance at a better future.

"I don't know that it puts the recession further behind us, I think what it does is it better positions us as we start, as the economy starts normalizing," said Wehmeier.

He said Lufkin is blessed to have a shot at replacing some of the jobs that people like the former Citation employees lost.

"It makes us feel good that there are people out there that would invest their money on a speculative basis to try to turn a piece of property around, do the right thing with it and ultimately create jobs," said Wehmeier.

He said he thinks this will help pull Lufkin out of the Recession.

Also, the Economic Development Administration awarded Lufkin a grant for pre-development work for the city's industrial park near Abitibi. It could take up to two years to complete the work, but one company is already looking at 10-acre piece of the land.

Wehmeier said Atkinson Candy Company is also considering an up to 50,000 square foot expansion that could create up to 30 jobs over time.

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