WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wisc. (From news reports) - As the Verso Corp. paper mill quickly approaches a planned shutdown this month, local, state and industry leaders continue looking for ways to keep it up and running, including by finding someone to buy it.
State Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa, said because there are valuable assets inside the mill, he is optimistic the Miamisburg, Ohio-based papermaker will be able to sell it and that there are a couple potential buyers interested in the facility.
Verso announced in June it would stop production at its paper mills in Wisconsin Rapids and Duluth, Minnesota, indefinitely while "exploring viable and sustainable alternatives for both mills." As a result, Verso said it would lay off 902 employees at the Wisconsin Rapids mill starting July 31.
During a meeting last week of a task force Krug and Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) created to keep the mill up and running, help Verso find potential buyers and support employees and their families, Krug said the group would continue looking for a long-term solution even after the July 31 shutdown.
Testin told the task force a group of regional political leaders met with Verso CEO Adam St. John, who said the company plans to cut ties with the Rapids mill but leave the facility in tact for a future owner.
Verso communications director Shawn Hall told the Daily Tribune this week the company is still working with local leaders to explore its options, including selling the mill, restarting operations if market conditions improve or shutting down the facility permanently.
Krug said there is a small chance Verso could restart production. However, based on his conversations with Verso, market conditions would need to improve drastically, and Verso would need a massive order, he said.
Mike Glodowski, a manager at Verso, told the task force the demand for printing and writing paper is very low, but that of other paper products such as packaging, tissue and toweling are higher. Converting the facility would be difficult and expensive, but it's "doable," he said. Glodowski said he would guess a potential buyer would look at making something different at the facility. He said Verso is also working with an outside firm to market and sell the mill.
Verso announced a small crew will continue to work at the facility to keep it operational and maintained for any future owners. Krug said there isn't a point at which restarting production would be impossible, but he hopes the mill can resume full operations by Thanksgiving.