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Assembly passes bill designed to save Verso paper mill

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 9:14 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WSAW) — The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a bill designed to save two shuttered paper mills. The bill passed Tuesday would make available a $50 million loan to a cooperative that wants to buy the shuttered Verso paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids and make a $15 million loan for a cooperative working to purchase the paper mill in Park Falls formerly known as Flambeau River Papers.

The money would come from federal coronavirus relief money.

“We are looking for a hand-up not a handout,” said Don Peterson, administrator of the Timber Professionals Cooperative, the consolidated cooperative looking to buy the mill, describing the group’s desire for a loan.

The consolidated cooperative is made up of people in forestry who depend on the mill and want to see it open again.

“It is the people that work in that mill, supply wood to that mill, and whose livelihood depend on that mill,” Peterson said.

The group would like to keep ownership to the stakeholders who have a vested interest in keeping the mill open as opposed to a corporation.

“The Wisconsin Rapids mill was owned for over a hundred years by one family, and then since then, there’s been three corporate owners in there in the last 20 years. So the cooperative is our attempt to get back to that family-type ownership,” Peterson said.

Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) and Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) are confident the bill has support from both parties, and they’ve heard from the governor’s office that Governor Tony Evers would sign it.

“Republicans, Democrats at every level, at the federal, state, local level, came together at the same table to really hash out, one, what really needs to be done to support these families that were impacted, and two, find a new owner for the mill,” Sen. Testin explained.

The bill came after a year of discussion with state, local and federal officials about how to save the Verso mill, which closed in June 2020 after more than a hundred years of operation. It employed 900 people.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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