Tuesday was a rather somber day at the News Tribune offices. Although we had looked forward to spending the day welcoming back some of our past readers with the one-day-only spring subscription special, we certainly had not expected to receive the news that we received early that morning.

By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
Tuesday was a rather somber day at the News Tribune offices. Although we had looked forward to spending the day welcoming back some of our past readers with the one-day-only spring subscription special, we certainly had not expected to receive the news that we received early that morning.
From what we are hearing, nobody else did either … least of all the 675 employees of Verso’s Luke Mill who found out Tuesday that they were losing their jobs.  While those of us who grew up in this area have heard the rumors from time to time all of our lives that the mill was closing, it was always just that – a rumor. You talked about how devastating such an action would be to the community and you went on with life feeling in your heart that the day would never come.
Apparently that’s how the employees felt as well, as they continued on with their jobs … which as recently as this week including hiring and training new employees.
And as sudden and unexpected as the announcement was Tuesday, it was equally as unfortunate that many of the employees  received the news either from a third party, or a Facebook post, or from the breaking story on our website. While we pride ourselves in getting the news of the community out to the public, we freely admit it is certainly not the best situation when the employees who are losing their jobs find out not from the company they work for but from Facebook or the hometown newspaper.
As poorly as the announcement was handled by Verso, we certainly hope that the compmany will now step up to the plate and help their employees navigate this life-changing event as best they can. They owe it to them to offer transfers if the employees don’t mind moving to another location, as well as information on services out there to help displaced workers find employment elsewhere as well as financial and emotional help in the meantime.
I can tell you this. Barbara High in our newsroom got in touch with Del. Gary Howell as soon as she heard about the situation, and although his options are limited because the majority of the mill is located in Maryland, he has nevertheless been in touch with Gov. Jim Justice and Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch. You can see his statement on the matter elsewhere on this page.
With the state jurisdiction problem in mind, I reached out to Mara Boggs, Sen. Joe Manchin’s state director, to make sure he was aware of the situation. Mara told me the Senator had already spoken to both the Verso CEO and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and that he will do all he can possibly do to help those affected by the closure. Mara, who is originally from this area and knows the impact this loss will have on her hometown, promised to let me know the details of any plan Sen. Manchin is able to come up to offer help for the displaced workers. Just before we published this, she did indeed get back to me and although the details are still to be ironed out, she did assure me that Sen. Manchin will be offering assistance for those who will be seeking a new job – some of them for only the second or third time in their adult lives.
We here at the hometown paper have also reached out to the City of Keyser, the Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce to offer any help we can and also to help those entities get the word out about anything they are doing to help the Verso employees. I can tell you they are all working diligently to come up with ways in which to help everyone through this horrible situation.
Why did we do this? Because we truly care about those who are being affected by this. You are our friends, our neighbors, and in many cases you are our family. Many of us have been in your shoes, but most of us cannot fathom the magnitude of loss this will create for you.
In addition, we also realize that your loss is the community’s loss. Because of this closure, less money will be spent at local businesses, less money will be spent on recreation and the arts, and there will be a bigger demand on food pantries and similar programs … right at a time when there will be fewer people able to give donations.
A comment was made Wednesday by an Allegany County resident on Facebook that the area will bounce back from this. This particular resident mentioned the loss of Kelly Springfield, Celenese and other plants and how Allegany County and Cumberland have basically reinvented themselves in an attempt to revitalize the area.
Mineral County up until now has been lucky enough to have not previously experienced a loss of this  magnitude. The last I can (barely) remember is when the glass plant closed. This is new and uncharted territory for Mineral County workers.
We need to look to our Allegany County neighbors and realize there is not only a light at the end of the tunnel, but there is hope. They found ways to move forward and even to reinvent some of the attributes that now make their area unique. And while tourism and the arts may not be the best answer, it is one answer … and I know in my heart there are more.
In order to find those answers, however, we must pull together as a community like we have never pulled together before.
We can do this.
There must be hope.  

Liz Beavers can be reached at lbeavers@newstribune.info.