LP keeps humming after 25 yearsTimes were tough along the North Shore in the mid-1980s. Reserve Mining in Silver Bay was on the verge of closing.
Times were tough along the North Shore in the mid-1980s. Reserve Mining in Silver Bay was on the verge of closing. A Two Harbors lumber plant was in trouble. The economy was stagnant and recovering from some of the worst inflation in years.
A beacon of light came when the first board at a new plant was produced in Two Harbors at 7:09 p.m. Feb. 26, 1985. It was a new day for Louisiana-Pacific plant workers. It remains today, still producing wood trim and siding, and will celebrate its 25-year anniversary July 17 at the plant.
“There was a stud plant that was floundering,” said Dave Battaglia of Two Harbors, a former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives and mayor of the city. “We had people around who were unemployed.”
But LP’s foray into the political waters of the area meant it wasn’t a sure thing. Bob Anderson, who still sits on the Two Harbors Industrial Development Council with Battaglia, said the area almost didn’t receive its wish. There was infrastructure to work out and other matters of luring business in without the city giving away the store.
“They had second thoughts,” Anderson said. He said LP owners were looking at Hayward for a plant but were eventually convinced to have plants in both locations.
LP asked for help with the railroad and county to get a spur for shipping. The groups complied and LP remains the only non-taconite company to use rail in the area.
LP had three years to build the facility after a deal had been reached. That has always been the norm for development in the industrial park, Anderson said, and those are still the rules today.
The agreement by LP to build in Two Harbors was negotiated with the understanding that governmental subdivisions would cooperate in funding for the plant. Industrial revenue bonds of $10 million were committed by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board along with $3.5 million in equipment funding. LP financed $1.5 million of the engineering cost for the plant. The groups also worked on getting grants for the project.
Eventually, what has become a longtime economic driver for the the community was up and running.
“That was a real shot in the arm,” Anderson said. “They’ve been terrific people up there.”
It’s been relatively smooth sailing at LP other than a scare in 1996. Steve Twining, the current plant manager who has been there since the beginning, said it turned out the formula LP was using for its fabricated siding was failing, which eventually led to a class-action lawsuit because so many people were filing claims. The plant was eventually closed for three months.
In order to make its product, LP takes aspen logs and turns them into wood flakes which are blended with wax and resins and then cut into siding and trim. Since 1996, through some patches of layoffs, LP’s siding has regained a seal of approval from the American public. It has not received any claims since and now four other mills produce the product.
When the company opened, it had around 100 employees. Today the number is 109. About 50 employees have been at the plant for more than 20 years.
Frank Swartout, who’s been there since it opened and is currently a millwright, said things are a lot different from when he started. He took the job after being laid off from Reserve Mining.
“Well, the front door is the same,” he said. “We’ve changed everything here.”
Long-term employees talk about the changes in technology and how it makes the job different.
“There’s a lot more automation,” Twining said. “The entire process is computerized.”
Maintenance supervisor Bob Torgerson, who has been at the Two Harbors location for 24 years, said the plant is safer since he started. Greg Kringle, No. 1 on the seniority list at the plant, echoed a similar tone about safety.
“It’s a good place to work,” Twining said. He said many employees have been promoted within to the upper ranks of the factory.
Not only does LP provide employment, but it also helps in the community by donating products to various groups, Twining said.
LP produces 107 million board feet per year with a five-day shift. They plant used to run seven days a week, producing 155 million board feet a year.
If you go
Celebrate 25 years
- There will be an open house from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. July 17 at the Louisiana-Pacific plant in Two Harbors as it will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. It will be open up for tours and there will be a cookout along with giveaways.
In Your Business
Headquartered in Nashville, LP has production facilities in the U.S., Canada and South America. The Two Harbors location is in the industrial park.
It produces wood siding and trimming. The Two Harbors location produces 107 million board feet per year.
The Two Harbors location originally had around 100 employees, peaking at 133. Now it has 109.
For the quarter ending March 31, the company reported net sales of $297 million, up from $206 million in the first quarter of 2009. For the first quarter, the company reported a net loss of $23 million as compared to a loss in the first quarter of 2009 of $31 million.
Stock quote as of Tuesday
LPX (Common Stock)
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