Verso’s Fiery Explosion Latest Blow to Struggling Plant, Workers
SARTELL – Barely 24 hours following the deadly explosion at Sartell’s Verso paper mill, Governor Mark Dayton and area lawmakers are dubious as to whether or not the plant will be rebuilt.
And for those who have been keeping up with local news during the last year, doubt regarding the mill’s future is not a new concept.
The devastation at the mill arrived relatively on the heels of highly-publicized layoffs for the company, made known at the end of last year.
On October 11th, 2011, Verso Paper company declared their intention to reduce their production and workforce and shut down the number one and two paper machines at the Sartell Mill.
At that time, Verso Paper CEO Mike Jackson explained the plant was suffering due to a universally diminished demand for coated groundwood papers.
The decision to permanently reduce production was followed quickly with the announcement that the Sartell plant’s 400-person workforce would be reduced by 175, effective December 14th of 2011.
Former plant manager Pat Gibney explained, 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. They affected 29 salaried employees and 146 hourly workers represented by the United Steel Workers union.
The remaining paper machine at Verso has remained in operation, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
Now, after suffering an explosion and fire, state and area lawmakers are hoping Verso believes it would make sense to repair a century-old that’s recently been downscaled.