JAY — Glenda DiPompo got a flier in the mail Thursday morning advertising a 50th anniversary celebration next week for the Androscoggin Mill, where her husband worked for decades before retiring and her son has worked for 35 years.

The bad news arrived right after the flier.

Her son, Nelson DiPompo, called her to tell her the mill is laying off 300 people, one-third of its workforce.

“We’re a mill town,” DiPompo, owner of Riverside Kwik Stop, said Thursday morning. “Everyone is connected to someone that works there. This is the talk of the town.”

Verso Corp. announced Thursday it will lay off 300 employees at its Androscoggin Mill, probably beginning in October, and another 310 at a Kentucky mill.

The announcement was made to employees at the mill around 9 a.m. Thursday, and others were notified by phone, said Bill Cohen, manager of communications and public affairs for Verso Maine.


He said the layoffs probably will begin in October, though the company hasn’t determined yet who will lose jobs.

“Everybody in the mill has had a face-to-face meeting, and we’ve made calls to everyone who is either on vacation or off today,” Cohen said. “There are a lot of personal reactions right now and it’s been hard for them.”

The company, based in Memphis, Tennessee, said in a news release earlier Thursday that it plans to shut down a pulp dryer and paper machine at the mill in order to reduce production capacity. It is also going to “indefinitely idle” its mill in Wickliffe, Kentucky, laying off 310 employees there.

Company spokeswoman Kathi Rowzie, by email, said three machines will remain in operation at the Androscoggin Mill — No. 3, No.4 and No. 5. The layoffs represent about a third of the mill’s workforce.

Specific employees have not been selected yet, Cohen said. A shutdown is scheduled for maintenance in late October, and it is likely that’s when the layoffs would begin, he said. The workers are not represented by a labor union.

The Maine Department of Labor has contacted Verso officials and said it will prepare to send a team to Jay to assist affected workers.


The layoffs were not a surprise to officials at the mill.

“When David Paterson reported the financials for the company as a whole, it was easy to see that we couldn’t continue to operate the way we were,” Cohen said. “Demand for our product was down about 5 percent this year.”

The mill makes coated paper used for magazines, catalogs and commercial printing. The decision to lay off the workers was driven by several factors, including a decline in the demand for coated paper in North America, according to the release. The effect of the drop in demand has been made worse for U.S. producers because of increased imports from Asia, Europe and Canada, the release said.

The shutdown of the two machines at the Androscoggin Mill will reduce Verso’s production capacity by 150,000 tons of coated paper and 100,000 tons of dried market pulp, resulting in the permanent elimination of the 300 jobs, the release said.


At nearby Riverside Kwik Stop, one of the few stores in town, DiPompo said the layoffs will affect business.


Her husband retired from the mill after working there 27 years, and her son has worked there 35. The flier that came in the mail invited her and a guest to a barbecue Aug. 28 “to recognize the people who have made Andro’s success possible” including employees, their families and retirees.

DiPompo said she isn’t sure now whether she and her husband will attend.

Nelson DiPompo, 57, said news of the layoffs is “going to devastate a lot of people.”

He said workers like him, who have been there a long time “will probably be OK.”

“It’s the people that haven’t worked there as long,” he said. “I don’t know if they have a plan in place though, or if there are people who will retire early. That could also affect things.”

Jessica Johnson, of Livermore, who works for RCCM Cleaning Services, which is contracted to do maintenance at the mill, said she’s not worried about her job being affected; but she is worried about her brother-in-law, who has worked at the mill for four years.


“He was lucky to get that job, but now it’s not so lucky,” she said while shopping at the Kwik Stop. “I think it’s a little worrisome for everyone because it’s a mill town.”

Down the road at the Paris Farmers Union, a hardware store, employee Dale Bessey also said the layoffs will affect business. Not only does the mill have an account at the store, but many employees also live in the area and shop there, he said.

“It’s not going to be just the people who work at the mill that are affected,” said Bessey, who worked at the mill for 16 years. “I think it’s kind of obvious, but it will also hurt the people who are bringing the wood in. If they’re not making as much pulp, they aren’t going to need the wood.”

“I think people in town are just a little in shock,” he added.

Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere was out of the office Thursday, but she said in a prepared statement that she was “at a loss for words.”

“We all realize that the paper industry is facing many immediate challenges,” she said. “Our thoughts are with the many employees, their families and others in the community that will be directly and indirectly affected. As a town we will get through this together. We are committed to working diligently with the mill during this transition while addressing the needs of our community.”


Workers leaving the mill when their shift ended Thursday didn’t stop to talk to the press, which wasn’t allowed inside the gates. Workers who stopped at the Kwik Stop said they were asked not to talk to the press.

Paterson, Verso’s president and CEO, said the move is necessary to “do what’s right for the company as a whole.”

“This includes maintaining a balance between Verso’s supply of products and our customers’ demand for them,” he said in the release. “Remaining true to this principle, and after a comprehensive review of our assets, inventory and demand forecasts, Verso has decided to make significant reductions in our coated paper and pulp production capacity at our Androscoggin and Wickliffe mills.

“Decisions to reduce production capacity are never easy,” Paterson said. “They are especially difficult for the employees and their families who are directly affected by these actions. Verso is committed to treating all of our impacted employees with fairness, dignity and respect and to communicating openly and honestly with each individual about how this decision will affect him or her.”


Maine politicians Thursday said the layoffs will hurt, both the people who are laid off and other industries as well.


Rep. Paul Gilbert, a Democrat from Jay, was in a meeting of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee when he got a call with the news.

“It’s devastating,” Gilbert said after stepping out of the meeting. “The paper industry has been a major part of that town since the late 1800s. It still is, but jeez, in the last 30 years it’s gone from about 1,500 employees down to 830 now. After these layoffs it will be 530.”

Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, whose Senate district includes Jay, said the layoffs came after recent talks with company officials recently gave him no intimation that this decision was coming.

“While this news is not surprising, it is disappointing and especially so because as recently as three weeks ago I was led to believe by mill management that nothing drastic was going to happen,” Saviello said in a prepared statement. “I would certainly characterize this decision as drastic, and hope Verso will be supportive of their workers during this difficult time.”

House Republican Leader Rep. Ken Fredette, of Newport, said the layoffs are “a tragic loss for those that work there and for their families.”

“Moreover, other jobs will likely be lost in the harvesting and trucking industry as well. Energy costs are a key driver for many manufacturing businesses in Maine and we must work together in state government and regionally to lower these costs in order to prevent future job loss.”


House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said, “Layoffs strike at the heart of a family and of our communities. Our state has seen far too many of our mills close and our people suffer from economic uncertainty.”

But he also struck an optimistic note.

“My message to these families and to the entire state is that it will get better. Each of those workers has something to offer a new employer. Lawmakers have worked to grow training opportunities for workers like those at the mill so they can help build fighter jet engines or install solar panels or help operate the innovative technology at our logging companies.”

The Maine Pulp and Paper Association, in a news release, said it will help support the workers affected by the announcement.

“Maine families are of utmost importance to the state’s pulp- and paper-making industry,” the release said. It said its members will “work with one another, local and state government officials, and other stakeholders to support the workers” who were laid off.

“We urge folks to visit their local Career Center to be connected to these and other resources,” it said, adding that it will continue to lobby both the state and federal government “on issues that support the success of the industry, such as ​air and water quality; the sustainability of forests; and competitive energy, transportation, and fiber costs.”


Gov. Paul LePage said, “The cost of doing business in Maine continues to have a negative effect on our workers and their families. As we did last fall in Bucksport, we will use all available resources to assist these workers and the Jay community.”

The papermaker closed another Maine mill last year in Bucksport, which resulted in the loss of 500 jobs.

The Androscoggin Mill opened in 1965 and operated five paper machines. It has the capacity to produce more than 1,900 tons per day of coated groundwood and coated freesheet papers on three coated machines, and produces specialty grades of paper on two other on two other machines.

Earlier this year, Verso acquired rival NewPage, which operated a mill in Rumford, and then sold the Rumford mill to Catalyst Paper Corp. because of antitrust concerns.

Portland Press Herald staff writer Whit Richardson contributed to this report.

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