County, state leaders positive about Verso mill’s future

What happens to a company town when the company moves out of town? Ballard County and state leaders plan to move forward for the new year after losing more than 300 jobs with the idling of the Verso paper mill in Wickliffe.

Ballard County Judge Executive Vickie Viniard gave her state of the of the county address Tuesday morning. State Sen. Danny Carroll was in attendance, and he talked about legislation he says would help the county. It was part of the annual Ballard County December chamber breakfast Tuesday morning. Leaders say they plan to look toward the positive for the county and for the plant.

The Verso paper mill hosted for the 14th year in a row Ballard County December Chamber Breakfast, but rather than think of what they didn’t have here, leaders had the Christmas spirit in mind.

The chamber recognized high school student Mahaila Pinchot and her classmates for their photography book, which aims to show state legislators and neighbors of the beauty in Ballard County. "We wanted everyone to really get a good feel about Ballard County and what it is," Pinchot said.

Teacher Korrie Purcell says her students wanted to help. She says they see the mill’s impact in the classroom. "We have students who are moving away now after Christmas," she says.

Viniard wanted to remind everyone what the mill meant for the area. She says the mill changed their way of life and put the county in a very stable economic state. Viniard says the county will continue to stand behind the mill into the new year in hopes of getting a new company to re-open it.

"Companies from around the world are looking at us Wickliffe, Kentucky," Viniard says.

Carroll says he recognizes the importance of the mill as an employer and a donor to charities. "It’s been a very viable part  of our program at Easter Seals and also provided some jobs, so we are very grateful."

Among the other points Viniard touched on was revamping the county’s search and rescue efforts and downsizing the county’s road department.

There was a question of whether Verso would still host the annual December chamber breakfast when the mill announced its idle status. Human Resources Director Mike Mazzone says they wanted to continue the tradition. "We’ve done it for many years, recognize our status as somewhat uncertain, but we’re still a member of the community and look forward to being a member of the community for many years forward," Mazzone says.

Mazzone says the mill is continuing in idle status. He says Verso can not disclose how many companies have looked at the mill.

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