Possible Verso paper mill buyer spreads optimism

 

WICKLIFFE, KY – In Verso’s second quarter earnings report, the company says it will likely sell the closed paper mill in Wickliffe, Kentucky, and use the proceeds to reduce debt. Verso officially closed July 1, 2016, but jobs began to taper off months before.

A potential buyer or timeline isn’t known. The report says it will likely sell at the end of the third quarter, which would be September.

More than 300 people lost their jobs when the plant closed. The effects of the closure began in early 2016.

From individual families, to logging companies, to local restaurants, the trickle down impact was felt throughout Ballard County.

In April 2016, we took you to a locally owned restaurant called the Wagon Wheel. That day, the cook and owner spoke about the struggles they were facing because of the layoffs. They were losing between $100-$250 a day in lunch deliveries.

They fought to hang on, despite theodds.

Today, if you look at the Wagon Wheel, you see a for sale sign. It’s one of two local restaurants that have closed.

Ballard County Judge Executive Todd Cooper calls the possibility exciting. “Until an official announcement is made, we’re holding our breath, because we don’t want to give anybody a false sense of hope or false sense of security,” he said.

Cooper says some homeowners have moved away to find work. Some, he says, have gotten creative, working from home or going back to school.

If a buyer does create jobs at the old Verso plant, it won’t just impact people’s paychecks. It will impact the county budget. The county’s 1 percent payroll tax took a 25 percent cut when the paper mill closed.

Cooper’s hope is this will “put people to work and bring better paying jobs. We know a lot of people that want to work in part-time positions or went back to school to obtain some type of career,” he said. “We don’t know if they’re going to come back to work or not, but at least they’ll have the opportunity if they want.”

Cooper also told us the Ballard County Fiscal Court and Ballard County School District seem open to considering tax incentives for an industry to take over the basically vacant property.

We will follow this story and let you know if we discover a date or buyer for Verso.

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