Our Opinion: Evaluating, and assisting, as plant closing looms

Any significant, unexpected loss is followed, at least, by shock, evaluation and reaction.

Last week’s announcement that the local RR Donnelley plant will close in October was a surprise — to its 475 employees, business and government leaders, and the community.

“We were shocked by this,” said Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Allen.

The chamber, and the local business community it represents, will evaluate the closing at a 7:30 a.m. Friday Coffee on the topic: “RR Donnelley — Where do we go from here?”

Similarly, Jefferson City government has begun pondering the impact the plant closing will have on city revenues.

At a City Council meeting Monday, Mayor Eric Struemph estimated revenue projections will decrease by $50,000 to $100,000 for the next fiscal year.

Council members now face adding that additional shortfall to a previously projected drop in revenues. Only last week, the council began budget discussions by accepting the mayor and administration’s budget projections that revenues will decline $5 million from the previous fiscal year.

Although council discussion focused on next year’s municipal budget, the plant closing eliminates future tax revenues for not only for the city, but for other local governments.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect to evaluate is the toll on workers who will find themselves unemployed.

State and local initiatives designed to help these workers have pledged assistance, but these programs cannot promise 475 successful outcomes.

How many of these newly unemployed people will suffer financial, and emotional, distress? What, if anything, can the community do to alleviate those hardships? How will a lack of buying power translate into sales declines at other businesses, as well as lost sales taxes?

As a community, we must evaluate and commit to a program of action to assist these unemployed workers before shock fades into apathy.

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