Different industries feel impact of Verso paper mill shut down

Businesses and their employees in and near Ballard County are rethinking their future after Verso announced the closure of the Wickliffe paper mill.

Loads of timber get dropped off at Wright’s Saw Mill in Arlington every day. It’s truck driver Henry Cole’s job to deliver them. His route has one less stop than it had about five months ago.

"I’ve had to tighten up around the house a little bit. It’s making me not spend as much money in our local area," Cole said.

Cole used to haul smaller trees, limbs and lumber scraps to the Verso mill. The loss of that stop has cost him up to $200 a week.

"That’s caused us to have to leave a lot limbs and stuff on our logging jobs in the woods instead of getting a profit out of them," Cole said.

He says it has hurt the loggers, the landowners who own the timber and the saw mill that employs him.

A load of the saw mill’s pulp wood was taken to the paper mill every day. Now it sits on this property waiting for a buyer.

"We don’t have a place to take pulp wood. We can salvage scrag logs, which is basically pulp wood," said the saw mill’s owner Chip Wright said.

Wright says he made a $20,000 to $30,000 profit from delivering pulp wood to Verso.

"It’s not going to devastate us, the world won’t stop turning, but it is going to hurt someone, no question about it," Wright said.

Wood from his mill is also used for furniture and railroad ties, but he fears for other mills.

"There are some guys that are geared to just do pulp wood, and it’s going to hurt them worse than anybody," he said.

Wright says there’s no doubt that change is coming to the industry.

The University of Kentucky says the Verso paper mill used more than $1 million tons of pulp wood and wood chips every year. A lot of that came from small, family owned businesses in western Kentucky.  

UK estimates a direct loss of $301 million in Ballard County, Kentucky. The university’s numbers show it has an estimated impact of almost $400 million to the state.

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