Wickliffe city leaders welcome new industry to town

ARTCO, a national barge company, christened a new barge recently at Wickliffe’s harbor, and it’s getting ready to go out on the river. 

City leaders say it’s not going to make a huge dent in the jobs lost from the Verso plant that recently closed, but leaders say jobs will continue to flow.

The river’s always been a part of Ballard County, and always helped bring materials and jobs to the Verso plant. But now, the river’s bringing 30 new jobs downstream.

Wickliffe Mayor George Lane retired from the Verso plant before it closed. He says with the closure announcement, he can’t help but feel upset. Lane knows he needs to help the county bring new jobs to the area, and ARTCO is the first step. "They will grow," he says. "They’ve got to, because they’re moving everything from St. Louis to Wickliffe."

ARTCO Vice President of Operations Jason Porter says Wickliffe’s a natural hub in the marine world. He says they tried to bring ARTCO to town for decades, work he says they’ll continue to build on despite the mill closing in town.

"The timing for us is fortuitous and the blessing as a beginning of a new chapter," Porter says. 

ARTCO has three barges floating up this river right now through the Wickliffe harbor, but they hope to grow to four or five.

For Lane, ARTCO represents small growth right now, but one new job on the river is better than zero.

As for Verso workers who are still on the job hunt, the Purchase Area Development District says staff members are talking with plant management about a timeline for employment services.

But for those with questions right now, call your local Kentucky Career Center or the Career Solutions Community on West Kentucky Community College’s campus.

Ballard County’s unemployment rate has dropped from January’s 11 percent. It is now at 10.4 percent. The Purchase Area Development District says the county has the highest unemployment rate in the Purchase region.

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