JAY — Verso Corp. announced Tuesday it is closing its paper mill in Kentucky by July 1. The last day for most workers is tentatively June 4, it said.

Verso announced Aug. 20, 2015, that it planned to idle the Wickliffe, Ky., mill by the end of that year. The same day, Verso announced it was shutting down a paper machine and pulp dryer at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay, and permanently eliminating about 300 jobs by the end of 2015. The machines were shut down in the fall of 2015. 

The Wickliffe Mill has been idle since November 2015, the result of a continuing and accelerated decline in demand for the company’s coated paper products and a significant influx of imports driven by the strength of the U.S. dollar relative to foreign currencies, according Verso’s news release.

“After an exhaustive, but ultimately unsuccessful effort to find a buyer of our Wickliffe Mill, Verso has made the difficult decision to close the facility,” President and CEO David J. Paterson said in the release.

“A handful of potential buyers expressed interest in purchasing and continuing to operate the mill, but either offered an unrealistically low purchase price or ultimately chose not to pursue the purchase. The decision to close the Wickliffe Mill is aligned with Verso’s long-held commitment to balance the supply of our products with our customers’ demand for them, and is not related to the company’s Chapter 11 proceedings,” he said.

The company and 26 subsidiaries filed voluntary petitions for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in January to allow Verso to reorganize. 

About 310 Wickliffe Mill employees were furloughed when the mill was idled in November, while a smaller group remained at the mill to maintain critical systems during the marketing process.

Both groups of employees were notified in accordance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act that their last day of employment with Verso is expected to be June 4. Represented employees will receive a severance allowance as outlined in a memorandum of agreement negotiated prior to idling the mill. Salaried employees will receive severance allowances in accordance with Verso’s established severance policy.

Shortly after the Wickliffe Mill was idled, Verso successfully qualified paper grades formerly manufactured there for production at other mills in the company’s highly flexible manufacturing system, so the mill closure will have virtually no impact on Verso’s customers, according to the release.

The final disposition of the mill is yet to be determined.

Wickliffe stands at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and its population was 694 in 2013, according to city-data.com.


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