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Duluth paper mill to shut down

The owners, Verso, also plan to shut down a paper mill in Wisconsin, laying off about 1,000 workers in total.

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The Verso paper mill in West Duluth (foreground) is seen in an aerial view from August 2015. file / News Tribune

DULUTH — Verso Corp. announced Tuesday that it will begin indefinitely idling the paper mill in Duluth and another in Wisconsin.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Verso has seen an "unprecedented" market decline in graphic paper, according to a news release.

The Duluth paper mill employs about 225 people, the majority of whom will be laid off. Some employees will remain employed after June 30 to continue limited operations and maintain the facility, though Verso doesn't know how many yet or how long they will be kept on.

The company will explore alternatives for the mill, including marketing it for sale, closing permanently or restarting if market conditions improve.

Verso will also begin idling its mill in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., by the end of July. Between the two mills, about 1,000 employees will be laid off.

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"After a comprehensive review of post-pandemic demand forecasts and capacity, we made the difficult decision to idle the Duluth and Wisconsin Rapids mills," President and Chief Executive Officer Adam St. John said in a statement. "It is critical that we maintain a healthy balance sheet and focus on cash flow, while balancing our supply of products and our customers' demand."

The Duluth paper mill opened in 1987 and Verso acquired it in 2015.

To preserve jobs, Verso was looking for public assistance earlier this year in the form of a $2 million loan , while eyeing a conversation to the production of packaging materials.

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