Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. (WAOW) -- The "Wisconsin Rapids Working Together" task force had their first meeting to discuss how they can move forward to help the nearly 1000 employees impacted by the Verso paper mill idling operations.
The task force was developed by Senator Patrick Testin and Representative Scott Krug.
"We are having these discussions if worst case comes true," Testin said. What can we put in place to help transition these workers to other jobs in the paper industry?"
"There is nothing more in this town that defines us than paper," Krug said.
The June 9 announcement of idling all operations at Verso Paper Mill came as a shock to the nearly one thousand employees who work there.
"My grandfather worked at the Wisconsin Consolidated facility, my dad worked there for 48 years, I work in the paper industry myself for 25 years," said Tim Pavlik, President of Local 94 United Steelworkers. "It means a great deal for my family and the people I represent to make sure this mill continues to operate."
The auditorium at Mid-State Technical College was full of local legislators and workers who came up with a plan on how to save the paper mill.
"It deals with the economic component and community component if the worst does happen and the mill shuts its doors for good, then we have a safety net for those workers to get back on their feet," said Testin.
That is where Midstate Technical College comes in to help.
"The workforce development works with folks in the community who need to be skilled, retrained or decide to take on a new career if our mill decides to not re-open," said Bobbi Damrow, Vice President of Workforce Development Mid-State Technical College.
If Verso does end up closing for good, lawmakers said it would mean a $700 million loss for Wood County.
"It would be devastating not just for Wood Co., but for central Wisconsin. When you take a look at that loss revenue that means less money coming in for municipalities, less money for school districts and more importantly the economic impact of people being out of work," said Testin.
The Verso Paper Mill is expecting to idle all operations by July 31.