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City hopes to keep timber legacy alive

CLOQUET  — Community leaders are working to keep an eastern Minnesota city’s wood and timber industry legacy alive by luring a new company to take the place of a match factory which will soon close.

The Diamond Match factory in Cloquet announced last month that it will close sometime between July 28 and Aug. 11.

Newell Brands recently sold the Diamond Match brand to Royal Oak Enterprises. The new owners decided to close the Cloquet factory, putting 85 people out of their jobs.

“There’s a lot of concern, a lot of emotion,” said Steve Petoletti, president of the United Steel Workers Local 970 union. “And as the days get closer, you can feel a little more emotion.”

Wood product manufacturing jobs in Minnesota have declined more than 30 percent over the past 10 years. Paper mill jobs have decreased by more than 20 percent.

The Sappi paper mill is the largest paper mill in the state and sits across the street from the closing factory.

Four years ago, the paper mill converted its mill to be able to create a product called specialized cellulose, which is used in everything from textiles like rayon, to grated cheese, even cellphone screens.

The mill’s managing director Mike Schultz said the declining paper market led to the diversification. The mill is now making higher-end packaging paper, gift cards and hotel keys.

Cloquet community development director Holly Hansen said some wood product industry companies are touring the factory.

“I think the question is, does it fit their needs?” she said.

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