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LP celebrates 20 years of SmartSide

Two Harbors Mayor Chris Swanson and Chamber of Commerce president Janelle Jones (far left) talk with representatives from the offices of Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Rep. Rick Nolan as well as officials from the Louisiana-Pacific headquarters in Nashville. (News-Chronicle photo by Jamey Malcomb)1 / 3
Louisiana-Pacific's Megan Mattei leads a group of local leaders on a tour of the company's Two Harbors SmartSide production facility. (News-Chronicle photo by Jamey Malcomb)2 / 3
Louisiana-Pacific plant manager Steve Twining (right) and the mill's longest tenured employee Greg Kringle display the company's 20th anniversary cake. Kringle has worked at the mill since it opened in 1985. (News-Chronicle photo by Jamey Malcomb)3 / 3

Last week, a group of about 20 people donned hard hats, headphones and protective goggles to tour the Louisiana-Pacific Building Products SmartSide plant in Two Harbors.

The group included representatives from the offices of Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Rick Nolan, as well as local government officials and other leaders as they toured the facility in advance of its 20th anniversary.

LP opened a mill in Two Harbors in 1985 and began manufacturing its SmartSide brand engineered wood siding at the plant 12 years later. In that time, LP has produced more than 2.8 billion feet of SmartSide siding in Two Harbors, enough to go back and forth to the moon twice, and more than 10 billion feet at its plants worldwide.

"I look up and I see the water tower and it says, 'Two Harbors, It All Starts Here,'" LP senior vice president of sales and marketing Mike Sims said. "It's true, it all started here for us."

The mill has the capacity to store more than 30,000 cords of wood and goes through about 320 cords each day in its effort to produce 190 million feet per year.

The logs are stored in back of the mill and a "log pond" is used to float wood into the plant to be processed into SmartSide lap siding, trim and soffit. As the move the the production process the bark is stripped, the remaining wood is chewed up into small pieces, blended with wax and resins and then pressed into siding and trim. The plant uses the bark and wood chips that are too small or large to be used in the siding and instead of throwing it out, LP uses the material to fuel the dryers that remove moisture from the wood before processing. What's more, wood from ash trees is the best for SmartSide and ash is a quickly regenerating tree, making the process more sustainable than it otherwise would be.

In addition, LP employs more than 140 people in the community and pays out around $10 million to its employees annually. LP's contributions to the local economy doesn't stop there, however, it also sustains much of the local logging industry and every three or four years LP purchases a new Serco knuckleboom loader from the neighboring production facility.

LP also makes other contributions to the community. It's LP Foundation funds scholarships for employees and children of employees and the mill itself supports numerous community projects across northern Minnesota. Plant manager Steve Twining said the LP mill in Two Harbors helps provide siding for several Habitat for Humanity homes each year and has provided siding to the 3M Museum in Two Harbors, the Finland Co-op, the Julebyen festival in Knife River, the Lake County Fair as well as smaller projects by the Boy Scouts and at William Kelley Schools in Silver Bay.

"Any reasonable request, we try to help out wherever we can," Twining said. "LP does give me that authority to make these types of small donations and people appreciate it."

Two Harbors Mayor Chris Swanson came to the celebration and said the impact of LP's presence in the the community can't be underestimated.

"We appreciate the jobs and the commitment to our community that Louisiana Pacific has made," Swanson said. "It's always a testament to the character and values of the people in and around our community who have made this plant one of the most successful in the Louisiana Pacific system. Because of the people LP SmartSiding is one of their top products today and that product started right here in Two Harbors."

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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