A remote getaway and conference center near Park Rapids owned by one of Minnesota’s legacy corporations will soon be on the market. The 680-acre Wonewok resort complex will be sold as Twin Cities-based 3M continues to make cuts, according to a report in the Business Journal.
The company’s CEO, Mike Roman, told analysts during an earnings call in April that 3M is “reducing rooftops worldwide, including exiting our conference center in Northern Minnesota,” the Journal reported.
“Heartbreaking news has come to Northern Minnesota today as legendary Minnesota company 3M announces the closing of Wonewok Conference Center near Park Rapids, Minnesota,” Bemidji Woolen Mills owner Bill Batchelder wrote on Facebook. “This is truly a sad day in the 121 years history of 3M.”
3M is a multinational conglomerate in industry, worker safety, healthcare and consumer goods. The company was founded as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing in 1902. As of 2021, it had 95,000 worldwide employees but has been cutting employees and property recently in an attempt to reduce costs in a restructuring.
The company recently said it would lay off 6,000 employees across the world, including 1,100 at its headquarters in Maplewood, Minn.
The Journal reported 3M owns and operates the center, which is valued at nearly $15 million, according to Hubbard County property records.
The Wonewok property has dozens of guest rooms located in several cottages. The resort has about six miles of undeveloped shoreline on Big Mantrap Lake. A private lake named Petit Lake is stocked with trout, and the center was staffed by fishing guides to help guests clean their catch.
The buildings are surrounded by undeveloped habitat that attracts a variety of wildlife, and about 20 miles of private, groomed trails for riding ATVs, snowmobiles and horses, according to the Journal. The conference center had 40 people on staff to help guests plan activities, create special-order meals and provide customer service exclusive to each group visiting the resort.
A 2006 story by the Journal said Wonewok was used by 3M officials to connect with global customers. Other uses include employee meetings or incentive trips consume the rest of the time.
The facility was created in 1929 by a Chicago businessman. Former 3M CEO Herbert Buetow authorized the purchase of Wonewok in 1955 to “(create) a place away from the office to share ideas and to dream,” the Business Journal reported.
At the time of the 2006 story, the property was valued at $12 million “although if it were chopped up for individual cabins, development sources say it could easily be worth four times as much,” the Journal said.
The then-mayor of Park Rapids, Ted Godfrey, said in 2006 he’s visited the secluded center for building inspections and snowmobile safety classes and said it is “just breathtaking.”