State Sen. Roger Roth said Kimberly-Clark would get “Foxconn terms” to keep 600 jobs that paper manufacturer now plans to eliminate in Neenah under legislation he’s working on that could send up to $10 million in state assistance to the company.
Roth, R-Appleton, laid out parameters of the bill he’s working on after Gov. Scott Walker today called for legislation that would increase state credits in an effort to keep open two company plants in Neenah.
Still, Dems slammed the guv’s call as reactionary, saying his tweet today first pushing to help the company came off as reactionary and underscored that his administration had failed to adequately work with the company before last month’s announcement the plants would close as part of a global restructuring.
A Kimberly-Clark spokesperson said the company did not ask the state for an incentive package.
“A 280-character tweet isn’t an economic development plan, and it’s clearly too little, too late,” said Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse.
Walker followed today’s tweet with a statement he would work with lawmakers to increase the tax credits available for job retention to 17 percent from the current 7 percent. That incentive would match what Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn is receiving as part of a package that helped lure the company to Racine County.
Roth said the bill he’s working on with Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, would target jobs paying between $30,000 and $100,000. He was not sure how many of the 600 jobs slated for elimination would be impacted. But he estimated the cost to the state in the range of $3 million to $10 million.
He also defended only targeting Kimberly-Clark for the higher credits, saying the company revolutionized the paper industry a century ago and could do so again. He likened its impact on the state to the potential of the Foxconn development.
“It’s pivotal to the paper industry here in the Fox Valley, absolutely vital, that we retain the presence of Kimberly-Clark here and the 600 families that these jobs support,”
But Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said the plan was setting up the state to have other companies push for similar assistance to keep jobs in Wisconsin. He also suggested the proposal was a last-minute attempt that seemed to come out of nowhere.
“I don’t know if it was something jotted down on napkins or a piece of letter head reacting,” Hintz said. “But we’re getting a laundry list of last-minute should’ve, would’ve, could’ve toward the end of session,” Hintz said.
Walker said his administration has been working with Kimberly-Clark since the company announced it was reducing operations in the U.S.
“Retaining outstanding Wisconsin companies like Kimberly-Clark is just as important as attracting new companies to our state, which is why I’m proposing we offer larger tax credits to ensure the company keeps those 600 jobs where they belong — in Wisconsin,” Walker said.
A Kimberly-Clark spokesperson said the company did not ask for an incentive package from the state, but otherwise did not address whether the offer would impact its decision on the Neenah plants.
“As provided in the company’s statement last week, any final decisions will be announced by the company after appropriate consultation and/or negotiations with the union and other labor stakeholders,” the spokesperson said.
Some have also been pushing the Walker administration to take action to encourage the company that bought Appleton Coated to keep the company’s mill operations in the Fox Valley. Walker also said his administration has been having ongoing discussions with Industrial Assets, which now owns Appleton Coated. But his statement did not offer details about possible assistance.
Walker’s call also came just as Dems were unveiling two new bills to help the paper industry with a $60 million state investment in revolving loan funds.
Both funds would be $30 million and operated out of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. One would help paper mills currently producing white paper products transition to brown paper, which includes boxes and other shipping materials that are in demand thanks to online retailers such as Amazon. The other fund would allow paper mills and related industries to upgrade equipment for efficiency.
Rep. Amanda Struck, D-Appleton, said it would be great if the proposals helped convince Kimberly-Clark keep the 600 Wisconsin jobs now slated for elimination. But that’s not the main goal of the package.
“I think ideally this is more aimed at stopping future layoffs,” she said.