Louisiana Pacific eyes Cook for siding plant

An example of Louisiana-Pacific's wood siding product.

An example of Louisiana-Pacific’s wood siding product.

During the 2016 legislative session, the prospect of a potential Louisiana-Pacific wood siding plant in Northern Minnesota drove the agenda of the Iron Range legislative delegation.

The original concept made Hoyt Lakes the preferred site. A deal in the tax bill offered tax incentives, but the tax bill never became law. So the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) offered its own incentive package.

All along, Northern Minnesota was just one of several sites under consideration by Louisiana-Pacific. Locations in Michigan and Canada also had the company’s eye.

Late last week, Congressman Rick Nolan let it slip that L-P was looking at the former Ainsworth lumber plant in Cook, rather than Hoyt Lakes. Media outlets then confirmed that L-P had just purchased the site, which it had previously been renting as storage for its existing mills in Two Harbors, Minnesota and Hayward, Wisconsin.

John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune reports that Louisiana-Pacific is considering Cook, but its part of a much larger equation that includes a plant in Quebec. L-P swapped for that plant last week as well.

According to Louisiana-Pacific, much remains unresolved. You can see that in Myers’ story:

LP made it clear Friday that no final decision had been made on where to build the new plant.

“In northern Minnesota our focus is on the Cook site, not Hoyt Lakes. As our release says, the Val-d’Or mill site in Canada is also part of this equation,” Morrison told the News Tribune. “We are evaluating both sites.”

The new acquisitions in Quebec and Cook are “part of LP’s strategy to increase siding capacity, an area of the business that has delivered consistent sales growth over the past decade. The Canadian mill exchange, coupled with the recent Minnesota acquisition, provides us flexibility and increases our ability to optimize our capacity for sustained business growth,” said Curt Stevens, LP’s CEO. “We have seen tremendous growth in our siding business and anticipate this growth to continue as we look to meet increasing demand.”

The goal, Stevens said, is to have the new facility producing siding “by the end of 2018.”

L-P still has numbers to crunch. Whether the plant ends up in Minnesota or Quebec seems unresolved.

Northern Minnesota would love to have this wood siding plant. It’s the kind of value-added product line that economic developers talk about constantly. More than 100 jobs are possible if it goes.

Yet this seems another example of the old truth. Trying to lure companies from the outside quickly becomes a shape-shifting competition among similar regions.

We should be willing to chase opportunities, but in all that chasing let’s not forget to generate innovation from within the region, too. That’s the kind of growth that lasts.


  1. Independant says

    The entire project has also significantly shrunk in size and even if it goes into the old building in Cook (which would still be a great thing) it will hardly be a blip on the radar compared to the $440+ million dollar new facility they were proposing in Hoyt Lakes. It seems that the East Range cannot get anything to go its way lately. I agree with Aaron about chasing these opportunities when we can but also doubling down on efforts to support organic development opportunities sprung from local entrepreneurs.

    • Agreed. I view it as kind of analogous to a stock investment portfolio. The economy is probably healthiest when it is diversified and you have a mix of large, mid sized, and small companies, as well as a mix of stable and growth companies. Preferably most of these companies sell goods or services to customers outside the region, bringing in the needed capital for us to operate and pay for our local services (and businesses who don’t sell outside the region). It’s probably wise to put some effort into attracting outside businesses, but there should definitely be a limit on it, and it shouldn’t be at the expense of organic development, or supporting growth of our already established small and mid sized companies.

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