Project to build new $440 million plant in Minnesota falls through

Sen. Justin Eichorn relayed that the company's decision to pull out was a combination of an appeals court ruling and Minnesota's "regulatory and political climate."

The new mill would have produced the company's ZIP System sheathing and AdvanTech floor panels, pictured above. (Huber Engineered Woods/Facebook)

A proposed new plant that would have brought jobs and significant private investment to northern Minnesota will not be coming to fruition.

On Thursday Huber Engineered Woods (HEW) announced in a news release that the company would not move forward with its plan to build a $440 million manufacturing facility in Cohasset, Minn.

The project, which received a combined $40 million in state and local funding, would purportedly have required up to 400 construction workers. Likely hundreds of more employees would have worked at the plant itself.

In a statement, HEW president Brian Carlson blamed “delays that jeopardize our ability to meet product demands” and stated that the company would build the facility in a different state.

“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,” he said.

This week the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the project’s environmental impact would need to undergo further study. The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe argued that the new plant, slated to be built near their reservation, would harm the area’s wetlands and threaten their Treaty rights.

Sen. Justin Eichorn, who said he spoke with HEW Thursday morning, relayed that the company’s decision to pull out was a combination of the appeals court ruling and Minnesota’s “regulatory and political climate.”

“What frustrates me most is that this could have been avoided,” Eichorn said in a statement. “Gov. [Tim] Walz could have tried to save the Huber project with just a little effort, but he didn’t lift a finger. The Leech Lake Band could have come to the table to figure out a solution, but they chose to try to kill the entire project through protracted legal action.”

“As a result, Minnesota loses out on hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs; $450 million in direct investment; billions of dollars in long-term economic impact; and a phenomenal partner that has won international awards for sustainability. Good work, everyone,” he added.

Other legislators representing the Iron Range area expressed their disappointment and frustration with the missed opportunities as well.

“I’m very frustrated to hear that Huber Engineered Woods has been driven out of our state due to the anti-business climate,” said Sen. Rob Farnsworth. “Local, regional, and state leaders have all supported this project, but clearly, we have more work to do to keep good-paying jobs in the Northland.”

Rep. Spencer Igo tweeted: “I am devastated and beyond frustrated. One of the largest private investments to our state in its history is gone, taking with it jobs and more. Once again, Northern MN loses because of negligence by our State and activism. Enough is enough! This must stop!”

Minnesota Republicans have long taken issue with what they perceive as willful Democratic under-investment in the Iron Range, even on a federal level. Last month President Joe Biden announced a 20-year moratorium on the mining of around 225,000 acres in the Superior National Forest.

“I can assure you that this Administration, from the President to the Forest Service, to the Interior Department, will answer for the pain they elected to cause my constituents today,” said U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber in a Jan. 26 statement.


Evan Stambaugh

Evan Stambaugh is a freelance writer who had previously been a sports blogger. He has a BA in theology and an MA in philosophy.