Opp citizens react to mill news

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 3, 2003

The deal for Meriturn Partners to purchase Micolas Mills from Johnston Industries did not close Wednesday, but residents of Opp are already reacting to the news.

"Wednesday was our very aggressive target date to close," said Lee Hanson with Meriturn. "We were really hoping for Thursday."

Hanson said there was "no doubt" the closing of the deal would take place this week.

In the meantime, former employees of the mill are greeting the news with guarded hope.

"I hope they can make it work. I think it's good. Those people down there are good friends, I'm glad those people are going to keep their jobs,"" said Mickey Spivey, who had worked at the mill for 31 years and was in management when he left.

Spivey said that before the shut-down, the management team had heard about the many and massive looms being established in China.

"That's what's hurting us now," he said.

The former workers were happy for the sake of their former co-workers still employed at Micolas.

"I'm grateful for the people who still work up there," said Ann Whisonant, who was employed at the mill for more than 27 years. "It will help keep a little economy in Opp."

I hope that whoever bought it, that the people will get there old benefits back," said Rex Qualls, who worked at the mill for 20 years. "I hope it keeps going and people will have jobs."

Shirley Spivey, who, like her husband Mickey, worked at the Mills for 31 years, is also hopeful for the current employees.

"I'm excited for the people when are working there and for the town," she said. "I hope everything will work out. Opp needs the economic growth."

Despite the hope the former employees have for the mill, their opinions were laced with caution.


just wish we'd have had somebody come in five or six years ago and kept it making a profit," said Mickey Spivey.

Qualls said he had attended a talk by a representative of the Alabama Career Center who told her audience that the textile industry in Alabama was dying.

"She said the textile industry had no future in Alabama," he said.

"I'm afraid it's only going to prolong the agony," said Mickey Spivey.

"I could have stayed," said Shirley Spivey, who, with her 31 years seniority, was offered the opportunity to continue her employment. "I felt the textile industry as a whole would be gone soon and I would like to be able to move on to something else."

That something else for Shirley, and for Ann Whisonant, is nursing school. Like many of the other former employees, they have been working with the Lucile B. Pierce Literacy and Resource Center to seek out new job and educational opportunities.

"In a way, it was a blessing to me," said Whisonant, referring to her layoff. "I'm going to get to do something I wanted to do since I was a little girl. Now, I'm going to get that chance. I think it's time for me to make a change. "

All four had regrets about leaving the mills.

"When you work 20 years with people, they become family," said Whisonant. "I miss them. I met a lot of good people at the mill."

"I don't regret the 20 years I put in there," said Qualls. "It was a good job."

"We love those people," said Shirley Spivey. "We might be back down there one day - you never know."