Ballard paper mill to reopen, add 500 jobs
- By DAVE THOMPSON firstname.lastname@example.org
- Aug 17, 2018
WICKLIFFE — Barely two years after the Verso paper mill closed, taking hundreds of jobs with it, officials announced Thursday that a new buyer is taking possession of the mill and plans to reopen by early next year with 500 full-time jobs.
Gov. Matt Bevin, along with officials from Verso Corp. and the new buyer, Global Win Wickliffe LLC, held a contract signing ceremony at the mill.
The Chinese-owned company announced it plans to invest $150 million in the facility.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity to invest in the Wickliffe facility, the state of Kentucky and the people of Ballard County,” said Tom Lawson, the company’s strategy director.
Lawson said Global Win has already planned an “aggressive strategy” for staffing and reopening the mill by early in 2019.
“We are looking forward to a long and successful and profitable relationship with the people of Ballard county and the state of Kentucky,” he said.
Global Win purchased the mill for about $16 million, and the two companies plan to close the deal later this year.
Lawson said the mill’s equipment will be upgraded, and the mill will produce brown paper packaging and pulp.
Verso CEO Chris DiSantis called the deal a win for Verso, Global Win and the community as a whole.
“Verso and the economic development teams here in Kentucky have been working very hard over the last two years to identify, not just any partner, but the right partner, the partner who would do the right thing, which is invest, restart and operate the mill for the long term,” DiSantis said.
Bevin called the moment “much to rejoice and be glad about.”
Noting that his brother works in the paper industry, Bevin said the announcement was personal to him.
“This will be a good partnership. The seeds will germinate. The roots will grow deep and fruit will be borne for generations to come,” he said.
Lawson said the mill will be interested in re-hiring those who previously worked at the mill, given that their experience and familiarity with the facility will be helpful in restarting operations.
“We recognize the value of a trained and experienced workforce,” he said.
Bevin took a few minutes after the ceremony to speak to community members and former mill workers assembled outside.
He answered questions about confidence in Global Win and benefits the mill would bring to the area. “I grew up in a paper town. The best jobs that existed were in a paper mill. When that paper mill went under, so did the community,” he said.
“People just want a job. They want the dignity of going to work and earning an honest day’s pay. The expectation here is that people will be well paid and the benefits will be good.”
Bevin estimated that with an annual payroll over $25 million, multiplied by the increased spending in the community and other businesses that will benefit from the jobs, the overall benefit to the community could exceed $60 million.
Lawrence Otey, who worked at the mill for 43 years and retired before it closed in 2016, said he recalled the deteriorating equipment near the end of his time there.
“I welded patches on top of patches,” he said.
The mill’s closure cost his son his job, but Otey said with news of the reopening, his son hopes to come back.
“I’m happy for the place, and I’d come back down here in a minute to get it running,” said Otey, 73. “I’m gonna apply back if they’ll take me.”
Paducah Chamber of Commerce President Sandra Wilson helped to put the event together.
An employee of the mill for 26 years, Wilson said the event was something of a homecoming for her.
“It is wonderful news for the community, for Ballard County and all of the region,” she said. “It’s an exciting day to see that others will have that opportunity to support their family from these types of jobs.”
Bevin said he hopes Kentucky’s reputation for business-friendly policies will attract more companies from other areas and reverse a trend he’s seen where some people feel the need to move to other states for good jobs.
“I want (parents) to wonder why their kids have to go to Kentucky to get a job, instead of the other way around.”