Cloquet, MN (Northlands NewsCenter)
-- Sappi Paper Mill in Cloquet employs close to 800 people and has now started a project that will add even more. The Cloquet jobs juggernaut broke ground on project Athena today. A plan to convert the paper pulp mill to chemical cellulose, a product used in the fashion and apparel industry.
Sappi has been around for more than 100 years and the Cloquet community is confident that this project will keep their Mill going for 100 more. Since 1898, South Africa based Sappi has been pumping out paper pulp from their Cloquet Headquarters.
Now, with a 170 Million Dollar investment, Sappi will be creating a new kind of product. At the ground breaking ceremony for project Athena, workers, lawmakers and Sappi's President praised the transition from paper, to Chemical Cellulose.
"Our plan is to have a state of the art paper mill and the state of the art pulp mill. The pulp mill going into the textile industry and the paper mill will continue to support the North American coated paper business," said CEO Mark Gardner.
Cloquet's Mayor, who spent a summer working in the mill, and whose mother was employed at Sappi, says the investment reveals confidence in the Northland.
"Every time that the company invests in their infrastructure it means they are going to stick around the area for a long time and not shut down. They are putting 170-Million dollars into infrastructure in the Cloquet Mill, we can guarantee they will be around for another 100 years," an exited Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren said.
Not only does the investment extend the life spend of Sappi in an increasingly paperless world, the cellulose will broaden their market size.
"It's incredible for jobs, more than 400 jobs and for a change, we are making things in America and they are going to sell them in China, it's the opposite of what we've been seeing for years," said Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.
That means more trucks, more trains, and more man power for Sappi in the future.
17 Million of the 170 Million will be used to update the existing paper mill. The estimated conclusion of Project Athena is May of 2013.