SARTELL - On October 11th, 2011, Verso Paper company declared their intention to reduce their production and workforce. This was to significantly affect jobs at the plant in Sartell, vaulting it to number four in our Top Ten stories of 2011 countdown.

According to Verso Paper CEO Mike Jackson, the decision to shut down the number one and two paper machines at the Sartell Mill, as well as one at their plant in Bucksport, Maine, came on the heels of a decreased demand for the mill's coated groundwood papers.

With this decision to permanently reduce production came the announcement that Sartell's 400-person workforce would be reduced by 175, effective December 14th of 2011.

Sartell Plant manager Pat Gibney said, while paper prices had only risen 7 percent over the past year, the cost to manufacture the paper had risen by 25 percent.

Layoffs began as expected mid-way through the month of December, including 29 salaried employees and 146 hourly workers represented by the United Steel Workers union.

At the time the layoffs began, workers were still waiting to see if they could qualify for benefits through the state Dislocated Worker Program.

The remaining paper machine at Verso will remain in operation, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.