CLOQUET, Minn. (WCCO) — For as long as Cloquet has been a city, workers in town have punched the clock at its eastside match stick factory.
“As you can tell by the parking lot how big it was at one time,” says resident Sandra Loney.
Loney lives next to the Newell brands plant. The recently merged company has made Diamond brand wood matches, toothpicks, clothes pins, even tongue depressors.
But employees have been informed that the 112-year-old factory will close for good within the next six months.
“I was really upset, really was because we need it in town,” explained Loney
Newell, which last year merged with the Jarden company, was recently sold. The new owner, Royal Oak Enterprises of Georgia, took the products but not the plant.
Jim Saaristo worked at the plant for more than 15 years hauling mulch.
“They were afraid six years back that something was going to happen, it never did. They are all out of work now and a lot of them are young yet, that’s the bad part of it,” Saaristo explained.
At peak production back in the 1940s some 600 people worked at the factory. Now, the parking lot is nearly empty with a mere 85 employees. Still, that means 85 paychecks will no longer be cashed in town, an certain economic hit for a small town.
“I hate to see anything shut down, people work there,” explains local resident, Dick Buczynski. He recalls as a young boy his mother working at the plant.
Newell officials say the company will give whatever resources it can to help the jobless. Newell released a statement saying, “We have been a proud partner in Cloquet for years and are committed to ensuring ample resources and support for the 85 employees affected.”
Trouble is up here factory jobs are already sparse. Now, Cloquet residents fear their small town, getting even smaller.
“I hate to see people move out and try to find jobs somewhere else,” says Sandra Loney.
But choices are few when the gates lock and lights go dark.