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Owner plans to close match mill; 85 to lose jobs

The match and toothpick mill in Cloquet, as seen in early 2014. (Pine Journal)

Cloquet’s match and toothpick factory is closing, and 85 people will lose their jobs there as a result, owner Newell Brands announced Monday.

The plant produces Diamond matches and toothpicks, a business that New Jersey-based Newell sold last month to Georgia-based Royal Oak Enterprises LLC. The new owners of the brand decided not to take the Cloquet operation with them.

“Newell Brands will no longer retain Diamond matches and toothpicks, which are manufactured at the facility,” according to a company statement  “As a result, the company has made the difficult decision to close the Cloquet facility, which is expected to occur within six months.”

According to an email from Cloquet Community Development Director Holly Hansen to the city council, Royal Oak toured the mill and decided not to keep it, leaving it in Newell’s hands.

“However they have no immediate plans for the facility and will be making an internal decision on next steps in potentially selling the facility,” Hansen wrote in the email Monday afternoon. “Employees are being informed as we speak.”

The earliest incarnation of the old Diamond match mill dates to 1905, and in recent years still used most of the same equipment imported from Sweden during a renovation in the 1940s, the Pine Journal reported in 2015.

At its peak, there were about 600 people employed at the plant.

Jarden Home Brands bought the company, which had changed names several times in mergers over the years, out of bankruptcy in 2003 and continued to offer three Diamond products: toothpicks, kitchen matches and penny matches, as well as new products such as colored toothpicks and long-reach matches.

Newell, which holds brands such as Sharpie, Rubbermaid, Jostens and Marmot, merged with Jarden Home Brands last spring.

Last month, Royal Oak closed on a deal to buy Diamond products and Pine Mountain fire starters from Newell.

Two members of Newell’s board of directors, Martin E. Franklin and Ian G. H. Ashken, are “affiliates” of Royal Oak, per a Newell press release.

Brooks Johnson

Brooks is an investigative/enterprise reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune.

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