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Funding Approved For Evergreen

A second vote in the state legislature on a funding bill turns out to be a winner for the Evergreen Paper Mill in Canton.

Tuesday, the House voted against giving $12 million to the plant to help convert to cleaner, natural gas boilers. Those voting "no" argued there were too many attachments to the bill. Wednesday, a clean version, just allocating the money, was approved by both chambers.

"It got wrapped up in many other types of incentives. But I think both parties recognize the importance, that this is something that had to stand alone because it's that important," says Canton Alderman Zeb Smathers.

The approval comes as good news for Evergreen, which is mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency to make the switch by 2016 and will cost the plant a total of $50 million. But the $12 million is a good start and makes downtown businesses breathe a little easier.

"Not only do they help the economy here in Canton, but all of Western North Carolina, even into Tennessee," says Joseph Sellars of Sellars Florist. "We have several customers from the mill. Generations of people have worked at that mill," says Kelly Worth who owns At Home Computer Services.

Small businesses know Canton is nicknamed "paper town" for a reason. David Huffman with Hometown Hardware says, "with just a little bit of help there are so many people that could keep their jobs."

Smathers says, "It's not just good for Canton and Haywood County, the whole region depends on Evergreen."

Democratic Representative Joe Sam Queen says there was strong bi-partisan support to sustain Evergreen. He calls the mill "critical infrastructure" in Haywood County. And he credits Republican Senator Jim Davis and others like Zeb Smathers, for their help in passing the bill.  It now goes to the Governor for his signature.

By: Rex Hodge
Follow Rex on Twitter @RexHodgeWLOS


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