Wednesday, July 15th: Full Committee Meeting


1. Updates from conversations with Verso – Rep. Krug and others

a.Rep. Krug confirmed that he, Sen. Testin and Rep. Shankland had spoken to St. John of Verso and that

- The plant shutdown will take place July 31, 2020 as planned

- Verso has definitively decided to leave its facility at Wisconsin Rapids

- The mill will be sold

- Rep. Krug characterized the situation as an “amicable parting” and indicated that as far as he was concerned the next step would be to retain the workforce in order to facilitate a sale of the mill to an entity which would continue to operate there.

 b. Representatives of the unions noted that they could not (at the time) comment on the effects bargaining with Verso, which was still ongoing. They indicated more meetings would take place in the very near future, with a plan for talks to conclude the week of July 20.

2. Remarks from Henry Schienebeck, Executive Director, Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association

a. Mr. Schienebeck spoke of the history of the mill and its regional / statewide role in Wisconsin’s timber market; he stated that

- 10,000 jobs would be affected by the closing, with some loggers probably leaving logging and some of those not re-entering

- Stumpage is declining in value since the closing was announced

- Landowners in the Managed Forest Land (MFL) program would now have lands they would be required to log and would have no market for the wood

- Forest management would be affected if the mill closed and remained closed, with the tourism appeal of forest lands in possible peril

Mr. Schienebeck stated that an effort was being made to look at the purchase of the mill by a multistate cooperative, and that this effort had been in place for some time and was now being accelerated. He shared a handout describing such an effort in Quebec.

 3. Discussion on the Forestry committee: Plans for committee role and future meetings – Rep. Krug and others

Following the above remarks by Mr. Schienebeck, Rep. Krug stated for the group that there would be meetings of regional groups from the Forestry / Logging worlds over the next few weeks and once these had been completed the task force would schedule a larger meeting of the task force’s Forestry / Logging committee as a discussion forum for the industry.

4. Updates from discussions with WEDC, DWD, Governor’s Office

a. Secretary Caleb Frostman of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) addressed the group. He stated that the Job Center in Wisconsin Rapids would be opened for Verso families and that details have already been provided to workers. Appointments would be by appointment only, held remotely when possible and in-person only as necessary.

Rep. Krug thanked Frostman and noted that the casino in Nekoosa had also recently laid off 76 people and that those families might need Job Center access as well.

b. Angel Whitehead of the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce reported that a job fair is being organized for the first week in September with the assistance of Mid-State Technical College and the Wisconsin Rapids Job Center (DWD). Details are being finalized. Volunteers will be needed and the call for volunteers will be shared with this task force and with other channels.

c. Rep. Krug noted that suggestions are being received regarding potential uses for the Verso mill, and asked the group who best could receive those suggestions. The conclusion seemed to be that serious suggestions could be sent to Rep. Krug and Sen. Testin at their official email addresses.

d. Sen. Bewley questioned whether an analysis of the paper industry was being made to assess a direction for the Verso mill in light of known trends and anticipated product demands. The response was that yes, Verso had looked at these issues and has engaged a firm to market the mill to potential buyers in a way that can be expected to address these questions.

e. Brian Conlan from the office of US Sen. Baldwin noted that his office was exploring possible federal funding for the mill, and shared that any possible federal funds would depend on a proposed plan for the mill being in line with the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) prepared in 2017 by the North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and available at

g. Alex Eveland from the office of US Rep. Kind noted that the US House recently passed a proposal to enact enhanced unemployment benefits, and that the measure has been sent to the US Senate for consideration.

f. Rep. Krug asked if WEDC and WDW could please continue their contacts and information flow to the office of the Mayor in Wisconsin Rapids as well as with himself and with Sen. Testin.

5. Update on negotiations between Verso and represented employees

This topic was covered early in the meeting under item 1.

6. Group brainstorm session on desired additions to the site (links, information, etc.)

a. Rep. Krug reiterated that source material for the web site is needed from task force participants. He noted that the site has several resources posted now but encouraged members to please forward to the Rep. Krug and Sen. Testin email boxes, any additional information they have that would be useful to Verso families.

7. Future meetings and related issues

It was arranged that the next meeting would be scheduled as a “committee of the whole” meeting for Wednesday, July 29 at Mid-State.