Huber is no longer building OSB plant in Cohasset

In June of 2021, Huber Engineered Woods announced they were going to build a $439 million dollar OSB plant in Cohasset.

Now, in February of 2023, the plan has changed. They are no longer moving forward with the project, according to officials across Itasca County.

The proposed plant would have brought 150 jobs to the area.

Here’s the statement from Huber’s president, Brian Carlson:

“Over the past year, we have been working closely with state and federal entities to scope and permit a new oriented strand board mill in the City of Cohasset, Minnesota. This sixth mill in HEW’s operational footprint will be one of the most efficient and sustainable plants in the industry and will meet or exceed all regulatory requirements in its construction and operation.

Due to delays that jeopardize our ability to meet product demand deadlines, we will pursue development of our sixth mill in another 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.

We have worked closely over the last year with many wonderful people across the City of Cohasset and the state of Minnesota. It has been a pleasure to work alongside these talented professionals and we greatly appreciate the strong support provided from a wide range of constituents, including state, county, city and local officials, government and private sector community development groups, and of course the residents of Itasca County. The Huber team looks forward to maintaining a constructive relationship in the state as we will continue to provide exceptional home building products to the citizens of Minnesota.”

Cohasset is facing the phase out of the Boswell Energy Center, as Minnesota Power transitions away from coal-fired power plants.

The city of Cohasset sent a statement. Mayor Andy MacDowell said,, “This is a devastating day for our community, our region, and our state. The Huber project was central to our city’s strategy to diversify our tax base and create high-quality jobs in the face of the massive losses we will see when the Boswell Plant retires.”

Senator Justin Eichorn sent a statement, saying in part,

I don’t blame Huber one bit for their decision, but Minnesota cannot continue to kill businesses and jobs time after time after time after time. Democrat leadership and this war on businesses are going to be the death of us if we don’t change how we do things.

What frustrates me most is that this could have been avoided. Gov. 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. 

To Huber, we say thank you. Thank you for trying. Thank you for believing in northern Minnesota. Thank you for suffering through our crushing political and regulatory climate as long as you did. You truly were a perfect partner for northern Minnesota. We regret the way this ended but wish you the best.”

Governor Walz’s office sent a statement, which reads, “This is devastating news for Cohasset, Itasca County, and Northern Minnesota. The Governor has been a strong supporter of the potential project – creating financial incentives, directing his agencies to collaborate closely with stakeholders, and working to accommodate an expedited timeline – to land the project in Minnesota. He has encouraged all involved to follow the necessary processes and meet timelines. He is deeply disappointed that Huber has chosen not to bring these critical jobs to Minnesota.”

By Thursday afternoon, the Leech Lake Band sent out a statement:

We understand that this news is a disappointment to many residents of Northern Minnesota, the City of Cohasset and the State of Minnesota, and we share in that disappointment. We have always been committed to working with local government and businesses to bring jobs and economic opportunities to our communities, while also protecting our natural resources and the environment.

In this particular case, we were deeply concerned about the potential impact of the proposed plant on the environment, the attempted shortcuts in the environmental review process and the absence of meaningful tribal consultation at the start of project. We took the necessary legal action to ensure that the Tribe’s rights and interests were protected.

We remain committed to working with all parties, including Huber Engineered Woods, to find mutually beneficial solutions that support economic development and protect the environment. We wish Huber the best in their future endeavors.

This is a developing story.