In 2010, Brainerd stood out among all cities in the state with populations of more than 10,000, but the category wasn’t one worth cheering.
However, a $27 million investment in Wausau Paper’s Brainerd mill was welcome news and the company announced it was expected to provide long-term stability for jobs here.
The aftermath of the Great Recession, which economists say began in December 2007 and ended in June of 2009, kept its anticipated path of a slow and painful recovery where the addition of jobs, slashed during the free fall, lags even further behind. For Brainerd, which has sustained double-digit unemployment for 24 straight months, 2010 was another difficult year in terms of its jobless rate.
Since 2001, the city had a jobless rate of 10 percent for a total of 17 months during a six-year span leading up to the start of the recession. Since the recession began in 2007, the city has posted a jobless rate below 10 percent only three times. And each of those months it was only just below the 10 percent mark at 9.8 percent or 9.9 percent.
October’s statistics with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development show Brainerd had a labor force of 7,213 people with 886 of those workers unemployed for a 12.3 percent jobless rate.
The city’s highest jobless rate in 2010 reached 19 percent in January with 1,393 workers unemployed. The Brainerd Micropolitan, which covers Crow Wing and Cass counties, had a labor force of 47,078 as of October with 3,705 people out of work for a 7.9 percent jobless rate. In 2010, the micropolitan’s number of unemployed workers reached a high of 5,448. It wasn’t uncommon to hear stories from job hunters who had been out of work for a year or more.
Earlier this decade, the jobless rate ranged from 3.5 to 4.1 percent across the seven county lakes area.
All those facts and figures make the Wausau Paper investment in the Brainerd mill stand out as a bright spot of economic development. The investment is expected to open up markets in the paint, medical and automotive industries, among others, as the mill produces a wide range of unsaturated tape-backing paper that is used to produce masking tape.
The mill retains its ability to produce premium paper. Phase Two of the rebuild project involving the No. 7 paper machine is expected in February.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.