Does the Closing of Luke Affect Local Businesses

Kingsford relies on sawdust to be mixed in proper ratios to form their famous charcoal briquettes

By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate

By now, most have heard the closing of Verso Corporations Luke Mill located in Western Md., which has been in business since 1888.  Not only does this result in nearly 700 jobs lost at that facility, but the effects trickle back to several other businesses across our state and others.  The company originally wasn’t scheduled to close their doors until the end of June; however that date changed and doors closed on May 31.

The Verso Corporation is responsible for producing approximately 450,000 tons of paper per year, including graphic papers, packaging, pulp, and more.  It is not surprising with the fast growth of technology that the need for some of their products has steadily declined, however they play a much larger role than that to other businesses in our county.

Fortunately, a Hinchcliff Lumber Company spokesperson noted this will not affect their business.  However, Carey Preston, Plant Manager at Kingsford said, “We were a little anxious in the beginning,” though since the initial announcement that concern has eased. Carey has been with the Parsons plant for eight years, though he has been with Kingsford for 40 years spending 25 of those  years at the char facility.

Of the seven plants in the United States owned by Kingsford, Preston has worked at five of those.   According to Preston, Kingsford owns their own char producing facility that was receiving all wood products from the paper mill at Luke, which made up approximately 40% of their volume. The wood left over from the making of the paper at the Luke plant was then moved to the char plant where it was converted to char to be sent to Kingsford and made into charcoal briquettes. Kingsford, in Parsons, received six truck loads per day from that plant.

He stated they have secured enough wood to make up the deficit brought on by the closing of Luke to implement a short term plan, and a long term plan is in the process to secure the future of the business.  “I think we’re in good shape over there (char facility),” he said. “We’re not too concerned at this point.”  He admitted it did impact a part of Kingsford by losing the incoming products to make the necessary char to form the briquettes, however since securing outside sources production has continued as normal.  “We don’t plan on going anywhere,” Preston concluded confidently, knowing the detrimental impact it would have on the area.