UK Forestry Details Economic Impact of Possible Closure of Wickliffe Paper Mill

Sep 11, 2015

The range of where the Verso paper mill's pulp wood comes from. The yellow dot is the mill.
Credit ENERGY.KY.GOV

  The University of Kentucky’s Department of Forestry has released a whitepaper detailing the economic impact of the potential closure of the Verso paper mill in Ballard County.

Verso announced last month it was indefinitely idling the plant, which could result in more than 300 jobs lost.

UK forestry professor Jeff Stringer told WKMS the day of the idling announcement a closure could mean a $600 million hit to the state’s economy. He says the new whitepaper details a lesser, yet still massive, economic impact if the plant closes.

“The specific analysis we were able to do kind of zeroed in and indicates about a $360 to $400 million impact annually to the commonwealth and that’s what we can document," Stringer said. "There’s a chance it could be larger than that.”

The report details a direct impact of $301 million to Ballard County. Stringer said the best case scenario now would be someone buying the Wickliffe paper mill.

“The other options the state has are severely limited," Stringer said. "There are options and there will be entrepreneurial opportunities that will arise from this plant closure, but certainly initially, you won’t be able to overcome that economic impact easily.”

Those entrepreneurial opportunities, Stringer said, include the biomass energy market or opening up pulp wood yards that could ship wood chips to other mills. The Domtar mill in Hawesville is the only other paper mill in the state, but currently only accepts wood chips from sawmills.