Buyer backs out of Wickliffe paper mill plant deal

BALLARD COUNTY, KY – The buyer backed out. We told you in September there was a buyer interested in the Wickliffe Verso paper mill. Verso officially closed July of 2016, leaving hundreds out of a job. Many were hoping if the plant sold, some of those jobs would come back to the area.

The company would not say why the deal fell through, or how the company is planning to re-market it. A company spokesperson says that’s all confidential information.

Town and Country store manager Hope Patterson says friends and family have started to thin out in town. “A lot of closeness that’s not here anymore in the town. It’s saddening to all of us,” she says.

With word the plant might sell, smoke from the stacks meant hope that business might come back to town. Patterson says, “You see a Verso truck in town, you’re like: Yes! It’s not going to be that exciting anymore.”

But now with the holidays, and word the plant did not sell, she says people are starting to lose hope. “This was going to be something good for Christmas, or so to know it was going to be open, and now it’s not,” she says.

There are still some employees there to supervise the property in the meantime, but we don’t know how many employees or how long they’ll continue to be there.

Ballard County Judge Executive Todd Cooper gave this statement about the plant:

“When we saw that Verso sale had not taken place on November 14, it hurt.  This was a tough to take, due to the recent news of about 200 plus losing their jobs at DOE-Paducah site, some of which were Ballard Co residents.  A trifecta of sorts this week, as Honeywell announced that it was laying off 170 people, some of which are Ballard Co. residents.  Its been a tough 2-3 months here in our County. We have had numerous people move out of the County to take jobs in other areas. We have some that have left their families here and have found work in other areas, and coming home every other weekend or so to visit.

What to do from here?  We have to look at the big picture, in my opinion.  Big picture thinking is that we all have to work together across county and state lines and partner with other counties to survive.  We have been working on building strong relationships and we are in the process of closely working with leaders from other counties, and the area to make this area as strong as possible, and to bring jobs to the area,  for the future of our area.  Surrounding county leaders and I have made numerous trips in the last few months to the Economic Cabinet in Frankfort to try and see what we could do on the state level to make our region as attractive as possible, for new business and industry.  When the Toyota plant project came to light, I think it was a win for West Ky because local elected officials, economic development directors, and local state legislators all set down together to work to put our Region in the minds of the people in Frankfort.  We hope that for future businesses coming to Ky,  West Ky will be at the top of the list on the states recommendation.  I have been told that bringing jobs to the purchase area is one of Governor Bevins top priorities. We hope that we can build on this thought.  When one county wins a new employer in our region, which includes our neighbors in Tennessee, Illinois, and Southeast Missouri, we all win because our people love where they live and do not mind commuting to other counties to work.  We have a mobile work force.   We also need to be open to do all we can do to support our existing businesses in our area, to keep them vibrant, as they are big job creators for our area.

 We look forward to working with anyone and everyone to bring jobs to our region. “