Northland Loggers Impacted By Verso Closure

By KBJR News 1

August 3, 2012 Updated Aug 3, 2012 at 1:34 AM CDT

Grand Rapids, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - The decision to permanently close Verso Paper Mill in Sartell means that the logging companies who sold to the mill are out of a customer.
The logging industry is already suffering as a result of the economic downturn and closure of other mills in the state.

"Folks in the logging industry are really hurting," said Minnesota Timber Producers Association Director of Operations, Ray Higgins, "Margins are so tight in our industry that any little blimp that upsets that balance is huge."

The permanent closure of the Verso Mill isn't just a hit to loggers that supplied the mill, but to all loggers in the state that will suffer from the tighter market caused by the Verso closure.

"We've lost mills, so every mill we have is very important now," said Representative Carolyn McElfatrick.

It's a concern that she says she's heard from many Northland loggers. It's the reason she called for a meeting to take place at the Itasca County Courthouse Wednesday, where loggers from across the state expressed concerns about their industry.

"This represents the loss of a customer for many, many people here," McElfatrick said.

Nearly 80 people attended the meeting Wednesday, many voiced concerns about the lack of places to sell their wood.

"We're talking about family–owned businesses, almost exclusively in the logging industry, folks that get up early in the morning and then work late at night," said Higgins.

Higgins says that Verso Paper Mill's decision to permanently close made for a difficult day for loggers in the industry. However, Higgins said that over time the industry has been resilient.

The Verso Paper Mill has been inactive since an explosion at the mill in May in which one person was killed and five others injured.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.