A Warning from Wisconsin
Article

A Warning from Wisconsin

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Washington Post reporter Peter Kendall illustrates how COVID-19 affects industrial plants and the communities built around them. The closure of the Rapid Mills paper plant in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin affected 900 employees and had widespread local impact. The economic loss to the community reverberates politically as well. Now, the town seeks to keep its regional industry alive by turning the mill into a cooperative. Managers and industry analysts will find Kendall’s report illuminating.

Summary

COVID-19 is accelerating the downward spiral of a paper mill in Wisconsin.

For more than 100 years, the Verso Corporation’s Rapids Mill paper plant in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin functioned as the heart of this community. As the first electric-powered mill in the United States it pioneered new processes. In the 1930s, its glossy paper enlivened the photographs in Life magazine.

At the end of July 2020, the mill’s closure loomed. The mill employed 900 of the town’s residents, and its economic tendrils spread throughout the region. Including its supply chain, the paper industry in Wisconsin is a $28.8 billion concern that employs more than 95,000 people. The Rapids Mill plant processed 25% of the state’s harvested timber. Its closure will directly affect land owners, local governments, loggers and haulers.

While COVID-19 did not toll the final bell for the...

About the Author

Peter Kendall is a reporter for The Washington Post.


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