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Ep. 2 | The Power of Papertown: Resiliency in Bouncing Back

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  • Canton Mayor @ZebSmathers calls himself a "product of papertown." Despite the closing of the town's mill, Smathers expects the town to bounce back.
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The closing of a paper mill by the numbers

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In this episode, we talk with Zeb Smathers, mayor of Canton, and David Francis, Haywood County economic development director.

Smathers said he is a “product of Papertown.” He grew up here and currently works with his dad in a building that was his grandfather’s grocery store. He was at the helm during the most recent flood and has led the “Canton Comeback” charge. In this episode, Smathers reflects on what the town will be like without the mill.

Francis speaks to us about the economic effects of the Pactiv Evergreen mill closure.

We were talking about it being a ripple effect. And, you know, now I believe it’s a wave effect. When I was describing some of the things we’re going through, somebody said, ‘you might be really talking about a tsunami.’

David Francis, Haywood County economic development director
Graphic by Lanie Sorrows.
Artwork by Lanie Sorrow

Both relay the same sentiment in the end: the people are resilient, and they will bounce back like they always have.

Find other episodes of The Power of Papertown here.

Behind the Story

The Power of Papertown is a series of audio stories highlighting the closure of the paper mill in Canton, North Carolina.

Cheyenne McNeill and Caroline Parker did the reporting for this story. Cheyenne produced and narrated the audio stories.

In this episode, you heard from Zeb Smathers, the mayor of Canton, and David Francis, the Haywood County economic development director.

The intro and outro music was recorded from a session at the Haywood Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) after school program.

The artwork for this series was created by Lanie Sorrow.

Cheyenne McNeill

Cheyenne McNeill is a communications strategist for EdNC.

Caroline Parker

Caroline Parker is the director of rural storytelling and strategy for EducationNC. She covers the stories of rural North Carolina, the arts, STEM education and nutrition.