Paper company to close Wisconsin, Minnesota mills

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (AP) — A paper-making company announced Tuesday that it plans to close mills in Minnesota and Wisconsin because the coronavirus pandemic has depressed demand.

The Wisconsin Rapids Tribune reports the Verso Corporation plans to close its mill in Duluth by the end of June and its mill in Wisconsin Rapids by the end of the July.

The company expects to lay off 1,000 employees between the two mills, although some will continue working after July 31 to continue limited operations or maintenance. About 900 of the layoffs will come at the Wisconsin Rapids facility.

The company says a decline in demand for graphic paper due to the pandemic forced the move. Retail, sports, entertainment and tourism industries have reduced their use of print advertising during stay-at-home orders, according to a statement from Verso. Demand fell by 38% in April, the company said.

The mills could re-start if market conditions improve, the company said.

Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Shane Blaser called the announcement “devastating.” The Wisconsin Paper Council released a statement calling the decision disappointing fro the entire paper industry.

Wisconsin state Rep. Scott Krug, a Nekoosa Republican, called the layoffs a “horrendous side effect from the outbreak.”