Cloquet matchsticks factory, last in the U.S., to shut down

Workers in Cloquet, Minn., known as the City of Wood Industries, have manufactured matchsticks for more than a century. But that long history is scheduled to end later this year.

New Jersey-based Newell Brands has announced it will close the facility sometime in the next six months. Newell is selling its Diamond brand matches, toothpicks and other products to a company called Royal Oak Enterprises, which did not want the Cloquet plant.

For a city of 12,000, the loss of 85 jobs is a big deal, said Cloquet community development director Holly Hansen.

"It's part of that historical fabric," she said, "of making paper, pallets, match sticks, all different types of products generated out of the City of Wood Industries. So absolutely it's a big impact."

The Cloquet facility is the last match factory in the U.S., Hansen said. The others have moved overseas, mainly to China. She said the Cloquet factory faced challenges, including quality control issues and labor costs.

In a statement, the company said it's been a "proud partner" in Cloquet and is committed to ensuring ample resources and support for the 85 employees affected.

A spokesperson said the company is still evaluating what to do with the Cloquet facility after it closes.

Hansen said she expects the city to work with Carlton County, the state of Minnesota, and regional economic development groups to market the plant to others in the wood products industry.

"We'll just have to stay tuned, but we're all willing players, and we want to see the highest and best use for the reuse, or repurposing, or redevelopment of that site," she said.