A company with no other operations in the state plans to build a large wood panel manufacturing mill on Minnesota’s Iron Range in the town of Cohasset. On Monday Gov. Tim Walz and Charlotte-based Huber Engineered Woods announced plans for the new $440 million project in northeastern Minnesota.
“They’re talking about starting construction in the spring,” said Mark Phillips, commissioner of the state’s Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB). “It takes about two-and-a-half years to build the plant.”
That construction timeline makes it clear that this is no small project. Phillips said plans call for the facility to be approximately 750,000 square feet.
“It’s as big as the Metrodome…it’s huge,” said Phillips. “It’s quite an undertaking.”
Phillips said that the facility will create 158 jobs. The jobs are slated to have a median hourly wage of $31 plus a benefits package. The company forecasts that 300 to 400 construction workers will be needed to build the facility.
Phillips said that the mill will also create demand for jobs to support the plant.
“This is a real boost to the logging and trucking industry as well…it’s a big economic driver if you can land one of these big mills,” said Phillips. “They had other options…we were in competition for this.”
New Jersey-based J.M. Huber Corp. is the parent company of Huber Engineered Woods. According to the company, “The project will be the single largest investment in the history of J.M. Huber Corporation.”
The booming housing market is driving demand for Huber’s products.
The facility will produce oriented strand board (OSB), a structural wood panel. Huber makes OSB for residential, multifamily and light commercial buildings. The Cohasset mill will produce subflooring, roof and wall panel products.
The project will be built on a site of more than 400 acres that is owned by Duluth-based Allete Inc., parent company of Minnesota Power.
“They have the financial wherewithal to build this,” said Phillips of Huber Engineered Woods. “Their sales are a little north of $1 billion a year.”
The IRRRB is slated to provide a $15 million loan to the project that is tied to Huber maintaining certain levels of employment. IF Huber meets those conditions on an ongoing basis, the loan could ultimately be entirely forgiven thereby becoming a grant.
Additional public money will be kicked into the project.
According to the company’s statement the project “is contingent upon financial assistance from IRRRB, State of MN, DEED, City of Cohasset, Itasca County and MN Power.”
A few years ago, there was much hoopla about plans floated for Nashville-based Louisiana-Pacific Corp. to build a wood siding plant on the Range. The facility was estimated to cost $400 million and would have created 250 jobs. The project was originally slated for Hoyt Lakes, then the town of Cook where Louisiana-Pacific acquired a site in 2016.