A new $ 439 million publicly and privately funded lumber production plant will open next year in Cohasset, Minnesota, bringing new production and construction jobs to the region.
The plant will produce oriented strand board (OSB) for Huber Engineering Woods. The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) unanimously approved a $ 15 million forgivable loan at its meeting on Monday.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is also considering a $ 20 million loan from its 21st Century Fund to help fund the project. IRRRB and DEED will cancel their loans if Huber meets certain criteria, primarily employment and production targets, IRRRB executive director of development Matt Sjoberg told the meeting.
The majority of the funding, estimated at $ 376.8 million, comes from private Huber funding, and the remaining $ 27.5 million is likely to come from partner investors, according to IRRRB meeting documents.
The 800,000 square foot OSB production plant would be built on 400 acres near Minnesota Power’s Boswell Energy Center in Cohasset, a town of more than 2,700 people in southern Itasca County. OSB panels are used in the construction of walls, flooring, roofing and furniture.
“I think everyone certainly understands that the markets are booming in anything that has… to do with construction or renovation or something like that,” Sjoberg said. “I think it’s safe to say… it’s a pretty good time to be in this business.”
Last month, Itasca County, home to the new factory, had more than 1,000 unemployed. With a labor force of 21,800, its unemployment rate was 4.8% – a figure lower than the rates reported in the months immediately before the start of the pandemic in March 2020, according to DEED data.
In the Seven County area of northeastern Minnesota, DEED reports 7,180 inhabitants worked in construction or mining. This represented 5% of the region’s workforce in the first quarter of 2020.
To build the plant, around 300 to 400 construction workers are needed. Work is expected to begin this fall or spring of next year, said Brian Carlson, president of Huber Engineered Woods.
Huber plans to offer full-time employees a median salary of $ 31 an hour, in addition to benefits. The location will also serve about 150 logging trucks each day, adding to the number of jobs impacted by the new plants, according to meeting documents.
“We conducted a comprehensive study and assessed the wood baskets and labor force in the western United States and western Canada. [We] identified several that we wanted to investigate further and ultimately decided that northern Minnesota, given the fiber basket that exists there and the long history of the OSB industry and the quality of the workmanship, was a perfect choice for us, ”said Carlson.
IRRRB plans to invest an additional $ 600,000 to support workforce development and training. DEED is also giving the project the same amount through two of its job training and incentive programs, according to meeting materials.
The project could see more public investment. Additional funding for production incentives is expected to be allocated to the project through a bill that lawmakers will approve in the current special session, said Senator Tom Bakk, I-Cook.
Sjoberg confirmed with Senator David Tomassoni, I-Chisholm, that Huber already has funding for the project.
“We’ve had some really big projects like this that have fallen through the cracks,” said Tomassoni, who, along with Bakk, sits on the IRRRB board.
Huber Engineering Woods is a subsidiary of JM Huber Corp., which has 4,000 employees worldwide. Huber Engineering employs approximately 1,000 people in the United States, with annual sales of over $ 1 billion. It has five other manufacturing plants in Georgia, Maine, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Virginia, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
“Huber is an innovative and unique leader in the construction products industry, and we are excited about the positive economic impact this investment will have in the region,” Governor Tim Walz said in a statement.
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