Outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Thursday announced that the state's economic development agency came to an agreement to save 388 jobs in the northern part of the state. The state agreed to provide a $28 million tax incentive to Kimberly-Clark, a paper good company, to keep its Fox Crossing facility in Neenah.
After the Republican-held legislature refused to take up a bill providing the company with an incentive, Walker vowed to save the jobs the facility provided.
“Quite literally, if it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to find a way. I’m going to save the jobs at Kimberly-Clark,” Walker said. "My priority is on Kimberly-Clark. It’s why I asked the Legislature to go into a special session in the first place. It’s frustrated me they didn’t give me the tools we needed then."
The tax incentives will take place over the next five years, WUWM reported. Part of the deal is that the company must continue to employ 388 people at the Neenah plant, have an annual payroll of over $30 million and invest $200 million in the plant over the next five years. They must also continue to employee 2,400 people across the state.
"This is a pretty good Christmas going forward because we didn’t just save your jobs for the short term. This is about a long-term commitment to this company, to this community and to this state," the outgoing Republican governor told workers at the plant," Walker told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I want this to be my legacy, that we protected these kind of jobs, not as a handout but because we knew if we invest in people like you, you won’t let us down."
State Democrats, however, aren't happy about the deal. They believe this sends a message to big businesses that the state is willing to cut them a deal, especially after the state brokered a deal to keep electronics manufacturer Foxconn.
“Kimberly-Clark is not a failing company. It is a successful company. We don’t want them to do that. But we don’t bribe them to stay,” said state Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland).
“It’s like walking into a room with a bunch of 8-year-olds and giving one of them a root beer float. And then saying, ‘Sorry, no one gets one unless you ask for it.’ Pretty soon you’re going to have to hand these things out left and right," State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said.
Kimberly-Clark, which makes products like Depends and sanitary supplies, was founded in 1872 in Neenah, Wisconsin. In 1985, the company relocated its headquarters to Texas. And, in January, they announced a plan to close two plants near Neenah as part of their global restructuring plan. That's when Wisconsin legislators were forced to look at potential legislation to keep the company, the Madison State Journal reported.
Walker took to Twitter to thank the Wisconsin Economic Development Coalition for their work on this issue:
Proud to announce that @kccorp will keep open the Cold Spring Facility in Neenah and retain nearly 400 good-paying jobs! This is a major win for the Fox Valley and for the state of Wisconsin! #WIWorking pic.twitter.com/esQaSBi1t5— Governor Walker (@GovWalker) December 13, 2018
.@kccorp has maintained roots in Wisconsin for over 140 years, glad they have agreed to make a major investment of up to $200 million over the next five years to fuel continued growth and innovation at the Cold Spring Facility!— Governor Walker (@GovWalker) December 13, 2018
Thanks to the efforts of @senatorroth, @mrhogan13 and the team at @WEDCnews for working with @kccorp to retain these technical manufacturing jobs in the Fox Valley. We got it done & hundreds of WI workers & their families will benefit! pic.twitter.com/sw7SNbbv7E— Governor Walker (@GovWalker) December 13, 2018