The other morning I heard a story about how a very uninformed person was saying things like "Potlatch employees are finally getting what they deserve, and now they know what it is like for the rest of us..." Fortunately and appropriately, the Potlatch employee that was present confronted this individual directly. As you might guess, this individual's source of information was revealed to be the seldom accurate "what I hear up town".
The closure of the Brainerd mill and the resulting loss of jobs is a small fraction of what this community will lose as a result of this closure. The logo hanging on the side of the building "Potlatch People Make it Better" is not limited to the production of paper. We are not only paper mill workers, we are Sunday school teachers, baseball coaches, firefighters & firefighter instructors, first responders and EMT's, PTA members, motorcycle safety instructors, United Way volunteers, township supervisors, softball coaches, basketball referees, swimming coordinators, Boy Scout and Girl Scout leaders, 4H leaders, Salvation Army bell-ringers, American Cancer Society volunteers, and those involved in the numerous local organizations. Who will donate gifts to the 350 children through the Sharing Tree program? I am sure this is just a short list of all the charitable organizations Potlatch employees participate. In addition, the pay scale at Potlatch provides the opportunity for our family members to volunteer in similar organizations.
For those people who choose to paint Potlatch Employees in a negative light, ask them if they are ready to be the next Boy Scout leader, or Sunday school teacher, or put on fire-fighting gear and run into burning buildings. The famous country singer George Jones may have said it best in his song "who is gonna fill their shoes?"
Potlatch employees have many reasons to take pride in this mill and this community. I dare you to find a higher quality of life anywhere else. Many of us will likely be able to remain in this community and continue to enjoy what we have helped to build. Those of us that find opportunity elsewhere will become involved in making our new communities as vibrant as the Brainerd Lakes area.
(Carlson is an operational projects manager at Potlatch.)
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