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No deal to save Wisconsin Rapids' Verso mill on the horizon
WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wisc. (From news reports) -- All signs continue to point to the Verso paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids shutting down operations on July 31st.

Following a meeting of the Rapids Together Task Force on Wednesday, Mayor Shane Blaser says the group has yet to find a solution that would keep the facility open for some 900 workers.

"The mill is going to be idled at the end of July, that we do know," said Blaser. "There isn't a purchaser laying in the weeds right now. So, we are planning for that."

Many lawmakers including Patrick Testin and Scott Krug, who represent the Wisconsin Rapids area in Madison, had pushed for a state-sponsored incentive package to be brought to Verso in an attempt to save the mill. Blaser says that turned out to be a good idea in theory, but it was difficult to fulfill.

"You don't know what plan to put together because you don't know what incentives the company is looking for. You're just not sure which way to go.

"[it's a] cart before the horse situation," he added.

Employees of the mill will be meeting next week to get details of their separation packages. A small number of employees will be kept on Verso's payroll to perform some maintenance and upkeep on the facility in case a buyer would come along after the closing date.

Blaser says some players in the Wisconsin timber industry have had preliminary talks about starting a co-op type facility in Wisconsin Rapids. But it is way too early in the process to know what that would look like or how many jobs it would produce.

While Verso did not use the terms "close" or "shut down" in their press release about the move, many have noted that it is extremely rare for a plant to be idled, then brought back up to full production by the same company.

Verso also idled a smaller facility in Duluth, Minnesota last month as part of this round of cuts. The moves were announced in early June. According to Verso challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak played a role in the decisions.

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