Verso workers leave plant for last time

The remaining Verso workers left the Wickliffe plant for the last time Friday. It was the paper mill’s last day before closing. 

Verso announced they would idle the paper mill last year, but announced in April its plans to close in June. More than 300 people lost their jobs in the plant’s closure.

Some workers have found jobs and opportunities elsewhere, but there is no word on how many. County leaders say 111 workers enrolled in college or technical school courses. Those leaders say they’re glad workers have that opportunity, but they’re working to bring jobs back to the county to help put those people go back to work.

After 26 years at the plant, Glen Rideout is leaving his job for the last time. “We leave a lot of good friends, and that’s it. Everything comes to an end," he says.

Rideout says Friday he was just finishing up paperwork. He says he’s had time, and he’s not bitter. 

Since announcing the closure, county leaders say they won’t stop trying to bring back some 300-plus jobs.

Ballard County Economic Development Director Jim LaFevre says Verso’s closure hits the county hard. He says the economic development is trying everything, from tourism to a push for small business, to build the county’s jobs back.

“We’re hoping to build our workforce over time, so it’s sustainable. So, you don’t wind up with one employer that has such huge impact," LaFevre says.

Rideout says he feels for the younger workers who lost their jobs, but he’s moving on to his next chapter. “There’s no negative feelings or nothing. Everything’s good. I just wish them the best," he says. 

Verso did say it would allow the county to show off the plant to potential buyers. LaFevre said the county has been showing the plant, and there are groups interested but no final buyers yet.

Because Verso is still going through bankruptcy, LaFevre says Verso is continuing that process, but the county won’t be able to sell the plant and its property until bankruptcy is finished.

Verso leaders say there will still be people out at the plant. Security guards will monitor the plant, and Verso will continue some corporate work there.

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