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Wisconsin loggers dealing with set backs of mill shutdown

Businesses are grappling with impacts of Wisconsin Rapids Verso mill closed in June 2020
Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 6:24 PM CDT
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Rhinelander, Wis. (WSAW) - In June 2020, the Verso paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids closed its doors. The nearly 1,000 employees of the mill were left jobless. However, thousands more were impacted by the closure as well.

Logging businesses around the state have felt the impacts of the closure. Loggers, drivers and other buyers have dealt with the economic turbulence of losing one of the largest paper epicenters in the state.

Dennis Schoeneck owns Enterprise Forest Products in Rhinelander. He said the impacts were instantaneous.

“It was immediate. Absolutely immediate effect for us. 80% of our wood went to Rapids,” said Schoeneck. “We had trucks leaving our job and I got a phone call saying that they can come with that one, but don’t send them again.”

As logging businesses like Schoeneck’s looked for alternate markets to sell to, some buyers took on more products in an effort to help keep the logging business afloat. Organizations like the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association are hoping for the best for the forests.

“Everybody’s trying to take a little more wood to help them through this,” said Henry Schienebeck, the association’s Executive Director. “Will we see some casualties? Absolutely.”

As for Schoeneck, he knows the logging deficits impact more than just his own business. According to Schoeneck, forest products are the number two economic driver in Wisconsin. With that in mind, Schoeneck is asking for assistance from the state.

“It’s amazing to me that our legislature has been so disconnected to such a huge problem in this state,” said Schoeneck. “This is a loan. Let’s get that straight right away. We’re not asking for a ‘gimmie’. We’re not asking to be given money. We’re asking to be loaned money.”

That help could be on the way. State Assemblyman Scott Krug is offering a new bill to help former paper mills in Wisconsin Rapids and Park Falls. One of the bills would offer $1,000,000 to keep the Verso mills open and allow for future sales. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers vetoed a similar bill in July.

“We’re going to keep plugging along at this,” said Schoeneck. “I would hope something happens with that Verso mill.”

Schoeneck and his crew have been working recently at a site near Elcho, not harvesting new trees, but cleaning up in the aftermath of a storm that blew through Langlade County in 2019.

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