With 47 percent of Kentucky’s land in forest, it is no doubt that the Commonwealth has been a prime location for paper mills. In fact, paper production and finishing brought more than $5 billion to the Kentucky economy last year, according to the 2015 University of Kentucky Forestry Economic Impact Report.
Unfortunately, Kentucky’s paper industry took a $400-million-dollar loss when the Verso Mill in Wickliffe (Ballard Co.) permanently closed in July.
Chad Niman, a primary forest products specialist with University of Kentucky Forestry Extension, said the Verso Mill made white copy and magazine grade paper which is a shrinking market and one that is being impacted by imports. He said that over 400 employees lost their jobs, and the closing also impacted trucking, over 100 logging firms in Kentucky and other regional businesses.
“We must re-educate the public on how the usage of paper can contribute to healthy forests,” Niman said. “In Kentucky, paper is manufactured from bi-products from sawmilling and timber harvests. In Kentucky the paper market allows landowners to get low quality and undesirable trees out of their woods providing valuable space for growing large high quality trees. The industry also provides many jobs. The health and quality of our forests in the western part of the state will likely decline as a result of this closure.”
The good news is that there is still a paper mill operating in western Kentucky using wood residues that provides sawmills with much needed income.