Huber Engineered Woods Moving OSB Mill Project from Cohasset
A proposed mill by North Carolina-based Huber Engineered Woods will no longer be in Cohasset.
Announced by the company on Thursday, the decision comes three days after a Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling that stated the company had to reconsider the environmental impact of its review. The $440 million project was announced in June 2021 and estimated to bring about 150 direct jobs to the small Itasca County town. But due to public protests and legal challenges from environmental groups, the project had problems getting off the ground.
“Due to delays that jeopardize our ability to meet product demand deadlines, we will pursue development of our sixth mill in another state,” said Huber Engineered Woods President Brian Carlson. “We will be seeking a new location where we can produce critical home building products that are desired by American home builders and homeowners in a timely manner and consistent with Huber’s environmental and social commitments.”
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe had challenged the city of Cohasset’s decision to allow an environmental assessment worksheet for the project while forgoing the more rigorous environmental impact statement. The band released a statement Thursday that said they were disappointed that Huber has pulled out and are “committed to working with local government and businesses to bring jobs and economic opportunities” while also protecting natural resources and the environment.
The band also said in the statement that they were “deeply concerned about the potential impact of the plant on the environment, the attempted shortcuts in the environmental review process, and the absence of meaningful tribal consultation at the start of the project,” so they took legal action to ensure their rights and interests were protected.
Supporters of the project voiced their disappointment in this development. Republican Senator Justin Eichorn of Grand Rapids stated in an interview with Lakeland News that this move would have more impacts than just financial loss.
“The state has made one of the most unfriendly business climates in the country,” said Eichorn. “Business recruiters looking to help businesses throughout the country and the world…they look at Minnesota and say it’s not worth the time.”
In the same conversation, Eichorn mentioned the loss of jobs and opportunity Cohasset would face. The loss of tax base also seems inevitable due to the coal-powered Boswell Energy Center having plans to shut down in 2035. He commented on the apparent lack of action from Minnesota governor Tim Walz and stated that a call could have prevented this loss.
The mill was planned to be 750,000 square feet in area and set to break ground in spring of 2022. Plans included the manufacturing oriented strand board, or OSB. This product is a type of compressed wood panel used in housing and light commercial buildings.
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