Major paper mill in central Wisconsin plans to shutter
Verso plans to close mills in Wisconsin Rapids and Duluth, throwing hundreds out of work
The Verso paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids will suspend production at the end of July, the company’s CEO announced this week putting most of the plant’s 915 jobs at risk.
The shutdown is indefinite while the company explores “viable and sustainable alternatives” for the mill and a sister plant in Duluth that is closing also, but on June 30, according to a statement by CEO Adam St. John.
St. John said options for the mills include restarting if graphic paper demand improves, selling them, or shutting them permanently. Some employees will remain at work after July 31 maintaining the Wisconsin Rapids mill.
The Duluth mill employs about 235 people. It is far newer than the Wisconsin Rapids facility, which began production in 1904. The Duluth mill opened in 1987.
Verso went through a Chapter XI bankruptcy process in 2016.
The COVID-19 pandemic has cut demand for print advertising by the retail, sports, entertainment and tourism industries, according to a company release, including an April drop in demand of 38%,
Mayor Shane Blaser told the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, “During a time when so many have so little, with COVID-19 impacting our health and wealth, this news is even more devastating”.
“Paper, pulp and forestry work is a vital part of our community’s history, spawning the charming, resilient community we know today, and this news is certain to have a profound impact on our community,” Blaser told the Tribune.
The Wisconsin Paper Council said that it would reach out to state and local officials to help provide support to employees and the Wisconsin Rapids community.
The closure of the mills is likely to have downstream effects in terms of logging activity and timber prices, particularly amidst the impact of Covid-19 and in the aftermath of last summer’s destructive storms.