Canadian-owned Ainsworth Lumber Co. says it will permanently close its two lumber mills in Cook and Bemidji. The move means the permanent loss of hundreds of jobs.
Ainsworth officials blame the shutdowns on stagnant home construction and the weak economy. The plants make oriented strand board, a product similar to plywood, which is used in home construction.
The mill in Cook was temporarily shuttered a year ago. The mill in Bemidji has been idle since October. Ainsworth closed its third northern Minnesota mill in Grand Rapids last August.
Wayne Brandt is with the Minnesota Timber Producers Association. He says people in the industry were hoping the Ainsworth mills would eventually reopen when the housing market turned around.
"So it's at least somewhat unexpected, and very unfortunate for the loggers in the area, the workers in those mills, and the other businesses that supplied them and the communities as a whole. I mean, it's a devastating blow to those communities," said Brandt.
A recent study estimates the economic loss from just a single lumber plant shutdown at about $90 million annually.
Company officials say they'll spend about $7 million to permanently close the facilities and provide severance packages for some 280 workers.
All of the mills were acquired by the Vancouver-based company in 2004 from Potlatch Corp. Ainsworth's three board mills in Canada will continue to run at full capacity.