Aug 6, 2012 at 9:02 am
SARTELL, MN (KNSI) - Now that a final decision has been made to permanently close the Verso paper mill in Sartell, the 250-plus people who were employed there begin the task of finding new jobs.
While the situation is no doubt bleak, those laid off from Verso are not facing a wholly unique situation, so there are avenues of help available to assist in a difficult time.
"While this is the first crisis we've had of this nature here in Sartell, it is not the first time it has happened across the state of Minnesota," Sartell Mayor Joe Perske said. "So unfortunately those folks have something to teach us."
Verso executives announced Thursday the mill would not re-open following a Memorial Day explosion and fire. They say the vast amount of damage, coupled with a declining demand for paper products, were the driving forces behind the decision.
In a first step toward recovery for those laid off, Governor Mark Dayton has dispatched staffers from the Department of Employment and Economic Development to Sartell to assist workers with everything from signing up for unemployment to information on retraining that will help them become even more viable in the difficult job market.
"They're ready to come in and provide direct assistance to workers individually and answer questions and get them set up with unemployment," Dayton said. "[Their presence] says to me that we are going to make the very best we possibly can out of all of this and I am optimistic."
The combination of severance packages and unemployment benefits could potentially keep the laid-off former Verso employees with an income for close to a year at least. But aside from monetary support State Senator Michele Fishbach said finding those newly jobless workers new employment options is the top priority.
"Federal leaders and the union leaders all came together in order to make sure that this happens and things are going to go well and those workers are being taken care of," Fischbach said. "They'll be retrained or find other jobs. That's the most important thing now."
In expressing his commitment to the newly jobless workers, Dayton said if need be, he'll take matters into his own hands.
"The fact that they are well skilled or well-trained hopefully speaks for itself," Dayton said. "I guess the last resource is write down that home number and I will call the employer myself."
Local, state and federal lawmakers all said along with helping the individual group of workers, it is important to the community as a whole to look into the possibility of other uses for the mill site that could provide jobs local residents could rely on far into the future.