Reporting Bill Hudson
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Mark Dayton was in Faribault, Minn. Thursday to celebrate the grand reopening of what used to be Minnesota’s oldest manufacturing plant: The Faribault Woolen Mill.
“This place started at the end of the civil war, went through the Great Depression, through world wars and through the many ups and downs of this economy,” said Paul Mooty, one of the mill’s new owners.
The 144-year-old mill and its wool products have been Minnesota icons, turning out wool blankets with those big, bold and colorful stripes. Then the recession hit, which forced owners to shut the doors in 2009. About 50 people lost their jobs.
Now, two years later, its massive yarn looms are spinning to life again. It is believed to be the only fully-integrated mill in North America, meaning it washes, cards, dyes, spins and weaves wool fiber into a finished product.
Mooty and his cousin, Chuck, are the new owners of the mill.
Standing at a lectern adorned with a historic 1925 photo and one of the company’s iconic wool blankets, owner Chuck Mooty told a crowd of well-wishers, “it’s a historic day because it’s a day of our future. This is a day of us going forward and it’s a new beginning.”
In an era of cheap imports and high unemployment, putting “Made in America” on a label is putting people back to work. Mooty hopes to build back a workforce of between 50 and 60 employees.
The two Mooty cousins celebrated the plant’s rebirth with a grand reopening ceremony. With Dayton’s snip of an oversized scissor, a red wool ribbon was cut and the dream took shape.
“I would drive by every day for two years and get tears in my eyes,” recalled mill worker Jenny Jones.
The loom operator was among the many that were left jobless when the mill closed, but she’s among the first to be hired back.
“To have this place open means the world to me,” said Jones. “We’re not just making blankets, I’m making history.”