$50M state loan proposed to support co-op's purchase of shuttered Wis. mill

The money would support the purchase of the Wisconsin Rapids paper mill, which closed last June

MADISON, Wis. -- Two Wisconsin legislators plan to introduce a bill authorizing the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to loan $50 million to a cooperative of forest products businesses to purchase the shuttered Verso pulp and paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids.

The legislative sponsors, Rep. Scott Krug (R-Rome) and Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) have invited other legislators to sign on to the legislation so it can be introduced in May.

The huge mill closed last June as the impact of Covid-19 caused a severe drop in consumption of paper used in magazines and catalogs, the mill's main product line. The mill employed 900 people prior to its closure and was the destination for more than 25% of the pulpwood in the state. The mill complex also includes a pulp mill, which converts low quality and scrap wood into paper pulp from which paper is produced.

Funding for the loan would come from federal pandemic stimulus and relief funding (the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021).

The effort to have a cooperative was led by the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association and the Timber Professionals Cooperative.

The loan will be for the “term and upon the conditions (that) may be agreed upon between WEDC and the Consolidated Cooperative”, according to analysis of the draft legislation by the Legislative Reference Bureau.

The bill also requires additional loan financing from the state's Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau. BCPL owns forest land throughout northern Wisconsin.

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