Wisconsin Rapids Verso mill to cease operations in July
By City Times staff
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – The Wisconsin Rapids Verso mill is scheduled to cease operations in July.
Verso Corporation announced on June 9 that it is “taking immediate actions to offset unprecedented market decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to reposition the company for future success.”
Verso will “indefinitely idle” paper mills in Duluth, MN, and Wisconsin Rapids while exploration alternative options for both mills.
“The decision to reduce production capacity is driven by the accelerated decline in graphic paper demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” a company release said. “The stay-at-home orders have significantly reduced the use of print advertising in various industries, including retail, sports, entertainment and tourism. According to Fastmarkets RISI, North American printing & writing demand fell by 38 percent year-over-year in April, and operating rates are expected to drop well below 70 percent during the second quarter.”
“It is critical that we maintain a healthy balance sheet and focus on cash flow, while balancing our supply of products and our customers’ demand,” said President and CEO Adam St. John. “After a comprehensive review of post-pandemic demand forecasts and capacity, we made the difficult decision to idle the Duluth and Wisconsin Rapids mills. We expect the idling of these facilities to improve our free cash flow. The sell through of inventory is expected to offset the cash costs of idling the mills.”
Verso plans to idle the Duluth mill by the end of June and the Wisconsin Rapids Mill by the end of July, resulting in the layoff of approximately 1,000 employees. The Rapids mill employs 915.
Verso will continue to supply graphic and specialty papers in roll and sheet form, as well as packaging papers and pulp.
“I am disappointed by the news that Verso Corporation plans to suspend operations at their Wisconsin Rapids mill and lay off their hard-working, dedicated employees,” said Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Shane Blaser. “And during a time when so many have so little, with COVID-19 impacting our health and wealth, this news is even more devastating. My heart goes out to each and every one of these employees and their families.
“Paper, pulp, and forestry work is a vital part of our community’s history, spawning the charming, resilient community we know today; and this news is certain to have a profound impact on our community.”
In February, Verso Corporation announced that it had completed the sale of its Androscoggin mill, in Jay, ME, and its Stevens Point mill, to Pixelle Specialty Solutions LLC.
The company’s Duluth, Escanaba, Quinnesec and Wisconsin Rapids mills have a combined annual production capacity of 2 million tons of paper.
Hear reaction from State Representative Scott Krug:
More from Mayor Blaser: