Arkansas official says proposed Wis. subsidies to keep Kimberly-Clark ‘unprecedented’

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

The head of Arkansas’ economic development agency said the Foxconn-like incentives Wisconsin is considering in an attempt to keep open a Kimberly-Clark plant is “unprecedented” for jobs that already exist.

The Wisconsin package is part of an effort to keep open a plant in the Fox Valley that makes similar products as a company facility in Conway, Ark., which is also in danger of being closed.

Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston said in a statement to that indications are now that the plant there will close based on “word from employees and vendors.”

He said the state is still aggressively trying to keep the 350 jobs at the plant and has made an offer to the company as part of negotiations to keep it open. He said the state was waiting to hear back from Kimberly-Clark.

The Wisconsin Assembly in February approved a bill would increase tax credits for job retention to 17 percent for the paper manufacturer’s payroll, up from the current 7 percent. Under the bill, Kimberly-Clark would also get refundable tax credits for 15 percent of capital expenditures — up from the standard 10 percent — over a five-year period, as well as a five-year sales tax exemption on those capital expenditures. Senate leadership has not yet said whether it will take up the bill.

“The Wisconsin package is setting a new bar for retention that is unprecedented in economic development for already-existing jobs,” Preston said. “We want to keep the 350 jobs but have a fiduciary responsibility to 3 million taxpayers.”

Kimberly-Clark said in a statement it has not asked Arkansas or Conway for an incentive package, though it appreciates the outreach from them.

“Kimberly-Clark has met with its employees at Conway to discuss the potential for the facility to close based on meeting the challenging objectives of our global restructuring program,” the company said. “There are difficult decisions that accompany the program, and we continue to evaluate the overall business needs.”

Kimberly-Clark in January announced plans for a global reorganization, and Arkansas officials said they were told at the time the Conway plant was safe. But a report out of Arkansas late last week said the company surprised state officials there by saying it was now a 50-50 proposition on whether it would remain open.