LUKE, Md. — A major employer in Maryland just across the West Virginia border will shutdown this summer and create a major blow to the local economy.
Ohio based Verso Corporation announced Tuesday it will close the paper-mill in Luke, Maryland putting 675 area residents out of a job.
“It is unfortunate that we had to make the decision to close the Luke Mill, but the continuing decline in demand for the grades of paper manufactured there left us no choice but to close this facility that has struggled with profitability for a number of years,” said Verso Interim Chief Executive Officer Leslie T. Lederer in a press release announcing the company’s decision. “The company explored the possibility of producing alternate grades of paper products but the conclusion remained the same – we could not achieve profitability at the mill in today’s market environment.”
The announcement indicated severance packages would be made to salaried and hourly employees under the stipulations of a current collective bargaining agreement. The company anticipated the mill would close June 30.
“The decision to close this mill that has been in operation for more than 130 years was an extremely difficult one, and is in no way a reflection on the dedicated men and women who work there,” Lederer said. “We know that this will be an extraordinarily emotional and challenging time for our Luke Mill team, and Verso is committed to treating them with fairness, respect and dignity during this difficult time. We will also do our utmost to ensure employee safety during the transition. I want to thank each and every member of the Luke team for their hard work and dedicated service to the mill, to Verso and to our customers.”
The plant and community of Luke, Maryland is just across the West Virginia border from Mineral County and the nearby city of Keyser. Many who will lose their jobs are West Virginia residents.
“I am deeply saddened to hear this news that could affect nearly 700 people in our area,” Del. Gary Howell, R-Mineral, said in a statement released by the WV House of Delegates. “While West Virginia has been working aggressively to create a positive business environment for manufacturers, unfortunately our counterparts in Maryland – where the majority of this plant is located – have been less hospitable to these industries.”
Howell said he’s reached out to the governor’s office and Commerce Ed Gaunch. He said both have pledged full resources to help impacted families.
The Verso announcement comes just less than a month after U.S. Defense contractor Northrop Grumman announced it was keeping its current jobs in Mineral County with plans of adding 500 more jobs. Howell said that development gives some hope for paper mill employees.
“We’re hopeful that we can help these people find new jobs quickly,” Howell said. “Additionally, the Commerce Department and other state officials, including myself, are working diligently to attract new businesses to our area that can help provide job opportunities to people across our region.”