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Sappi snags state award for Cloquet, Minn. mill

CLOQUET, Minn. (From news reports) -- The Sappi pulp and paper mill was recognized by the Minnesota Office of Foreign Direct Investment this week as the mill's South African owner has poured money into the plant to keep it viable and growing in recent years.

"I can not imagine a better example of driving investment and driving innovation in this region," said Brian Hanson, CEO of economic development firm APEX, as dignitaries and company officials gathered to celebrate the award. "This is exactly the kind of innovation we need in this region to continue to be successful."

Sappi bought the 119-year-old Cloquet mill in 2002. Part of the state recognition stems from a $170 million investment in 2012 that brought chemical cellulose capabilities to the mill, keeping it on the leading edge of the industry. Continued investment, such as a new head box due next month, is anticipated.

"We see a bright future for the mill," said Sappi North America CEO Mark Gardner. "We'll be growing in North America over the next few years."

State Rep. Mike Sundin, who has worked construction jobs at mills including Cloquet's, applauded the continued confidence in the work done here.

"These are quality jobs, much appreciated by the communities and the people who gather here to work," said Sundin, who is from Esko.

Sappi employs about 700 people at the Cloquet mill, and despite downturns within the industry it has its eyes on growth.

"That commitment that we have to excellence is recognized by Sappi, and that's where the investments come from," local mill manager Mike Schultz said. "When we show we're able to deliver on things we've promised, that we show our true commitment to the success of this mill, it brings on more and more investment."

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