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Details Released on Federal Delegation Meeting on Mill Impact

May 5th, 2019 by WCBC Radio

Today, U.S. Congressman David Trone and Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (all D-Md.) met with Luke, Maryland Mayor Ed Clemons, Jr. and Allegany County Administrator Brandon Butler to speak about the closing of the Verso Paper Mill.

“We are deeply disappointed in the decision to close the Verso paper mill and concerned about the effects this closure will have on its employees, the Town of Luke, and the regional economy. We appreciated the chance to sit down with Mayor Ed Clemons, Jr. and Allegany County Administrator Brandon Butler today to discuss ways in which we can support the community at this difficult time. We know the closure of the paper mill will have a serious impact, and we stand firm in our commitment to work together on the local, state, and federal level to advocate for resources to help the impacted workers gain employment, to ensure the supply of water and sewer services, and to promote economic development in the region. We will be aggressive in our support for Maryland’s request for federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

“We will continue to stay in close contact with the Mayor and County officials as we move forward in our efforts,” said Congressman Trone and Senators Cardin and Van Hollen following their meeting.

“With the shock of the news of the mill closure, I am grateful for the outpouring of support from the Senators and the Congressman to assist the town in moving forward. My hope is they can put the word in the right places so we can get all the federal assistance that we are requesting, especially for our immediate water and sewer needs,” said Luke Mayor Ed Clemons, Jr. 

“We are grateful for the outpouring of support of our federal delegation. From the moment the announcement was made, our federal partners and state agencies under Governor Hogan’s direction made it clear to Allegany County’s commissioners and staff that this community was their priority,” said County Administrator Brandon Butler. 

4 Responses to “Details Released on Federal Delegation Meeting on Mill Impact”

  1. May 05, 2019 at 5:43 am, Brian said:

    I bet if this was in Baltimore City or Montgomery County it would be one hell of a lot more effort and saving these jobs not just giving up we know where we stand with most State officials we are non-existent we just don’t matter

    Reply

    • May 05, 2019 at 4:40 pm, Andrew said:

      > Not trying to minimize what losing the plant is going to do to Luke, Westernport, etc. It’s one of the largest employers in the area and a significant source of revenue for the region.

      However, the state government has subsidized the plant for a number of years. Those subsidies to keep the plant open was money coming from Baltimore and Montgomery Counties, not Allegany or Garret, in part because those regions have more people and significantly more resources (which is what happens when you have greater concentrations of people).

      Losing 675 jobs in a place as large as the DC metropolitan area (almost 6 million people), doesn’t have close to the impact that losing those kinds of jobs do in a place with a fraction of the population (and a fraction of the potential employment opportunities).

      It’s just one of the ironies of the rural-urban divide in our country that the resentment for the big cities (while not always misplaced) often doesn’t reflect the reality that significantly more money flows out of those places to the benefit of rural places, than goes in the opposite direction. That doesn’t mean I think that rural americans should get less. In fact, I’d argue that the states and federal governments should do much more to support rural communities.

      But I do have to disagree with your (very understandable) venting above. I don’t think the state would have gone to the lengths it did to preserve the 675 paper mill jobs, if it were for positions in a major city. In large part because the demand for labor in major cities could much better absorb the displaced workers.

      This paper mill closing is just a continuation of major economic drivers in our country which are slowly but surely killing the industrial and agricultural jobs that supported small town America. As someone who has lived in urban, suburban, and rural Maryland (and America), I wish I had the answer as to how we can ensure the rural parts of our state/country don’t get left behind. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen anyone provide a truly convincing path forward on that problem.

      Reply

  2. May 06, 2019 at 4:28 am, Ken said:

    Here’s an idea…

    Let’s make Verso an offer for the employees to buyout the mill for one dollar. To sweeten the offer, Verso needs to know that if the plant is shuttered, the company is required to return the site to pristine condition.

    To facilitate this process, our state and federal politicians need to invest whatever it takes to retool this mill to produce whatever paper products this area needs and will be happy to buy at a competitive price.

    Perhaps the right answer is to look to our own resources to save these jobs instead of depending on a company who cannot figure out how to profitably make a product we all use several times a day.

    As the old saying goes, sometimes opportunity comes disguised as hard work. Here, we know 675 people who have proven they aren’t afraid of hard work. Now, we as a community need to show them we aren’t afraid to back them up.

    Reply

    • May 07, 2019 at 1:40 pm, mac said:

      > In the 80s Weirton Steel had closed it’s doors but was resurrected when the employees purchased the plant. For a few years there were profits but capitol improvements wee necessary and the employees had to offer stock purchases to finance needed improvements. That was the beginning of the end for the employee owned company. But, and this is a big but, the plant is still open.

      Reply

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