Griffin, Westerman visit to discuss life after GP layoffs

Fourth District Congressman Bruce Westerman, left, watches as Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin addresses a crowd at Gates Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church about responding to layoffs at Georgia Pacific.

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Fourth District U.S. Congressman Bruce Westerman visited Crossett this week to meet with residents about the recent announcements of planed layoffs at Georgia Pacific.

“We don’t have all of the answers, there is no magic button we can push, but we want you to know we are here,” Griffin said on Monday during one of his three site visits in Crossett.

At the Crossett Economic Development building, Griffin and Westerman met with elected officials from Hamburg and Crossett and several elected representatives from Bradley and Drew counties to discuss the economic issues the community would soon be facing.

They also toured the new Crossett High School building, met with officials in both of Ashley County’s public school districts as well as with representatives of the Universtity of Arkansas at Monticello. They also met with community religious leaders at Gates Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church to discuss the spiritual needs of the community.

While discussing economics, Griffin encouraged that everyone “think broader” and look beyond “the way we’ve always done things.”

“The immediate thing is to take folks who are losing their jobs and get them jobs,” Griffin said.

Both Griffin and Westerman talked about the natural resources in the area and said that though technology and other factors are changing, natural resources are still valuable.

Griffin talked about plastics and how researchers were looking into ways to combat our use of plastic or find an alternative solution to the issue.

“They are talking about working to put wood in plastic and we’ve got wood down here,” Westerman said.

An audience member asked what concrete information she could take home and tell her friends and relatives about what the state is doing to help the situation right now.

“I can tell you that from my perspective, I will be following up on, pursuing, cheerleading and doing all that I can to make sure y’all get the attention you need and you’re not forgotten,” Griffin said.

Griffin told those in attendance that the governor’s displaced worker task force was working to help the workers who are losing their jobs to find new employment. GP Crossett Public Relations Manager Jennifer King spoke up and said that there were actually people in town this week working with the employees at Georgia Pacific to perfect their resumes and interviewing skills and teaching them how to apply for jobs online.

Griffin also suggested that the best thing to be done right now is to simply do what Christians are called to do and be there for those who have lost their jobs by purchasing a meal for them or another nice gesture.

Griffin said that it’s important to authentically help others with no obligations, expectations or demands.

“That’s Christian walk in action as oppose to words,” Griffin said. “That’s not an option, it’s what we’re called to do, right.”

The religious leaders discussed the future of the church and what the church’s role needed to be during this time. One of the local pastors said he was working with ministers in Bastrop because Bastrop has been through this before and planned to invite all of the other local churches to aid.

The religious leaders of the community also discussed the importance of breaking down race barriers and denomination barriers to all come together during this time.

Griffin and Westerman both encouraged the religious leaders to take charge and join together.

“That’s the best way to demonstrate that we are set apart by Christ and by God,” Griffin said. “It’s not a government program, its a lot better than a government program and a lot more effective than a government program.”

Westerman seconded that by saying that though the government doesn’t have all of the answers, the answers could be found in Jesus.

“We don’t have the answers, but we do have the answer, you have the answer to everybody’s problem in life; and that’s the hope and the glory in the gospel of Jesus Christ- it’s the answer that solves all problems,” Westerman said. “It doesn’t mean there won’t be pain and suffering along the way, but at the end of the day that’s what life is all about.”

Other conversations during the visit included the logistics of the area and taxes.

Westerman discussed the financial struggles with funding the I-69 project and said that even once the finances get in place there are several years of work to be done before that is completed.

Hamburg Mayor Dane Weindorf questioned online taxes and said that the local governments depend on sales tax. Weindorf said that though there is a state tax on massive online retailers like Amazon, there is no local tax, only a state tax.

“We need it locally, that’s what I’m trying to say,” Weindorf said.

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