Local lawmakers propose funding to help paper industry

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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - Kimberly-Clark is just the latest in a string of paper companies to announce local layoffs. Should two two Fox Valley facilities close, about 600 people would be out of a job. The trend has led a group of Northeast Wisconsin lawmakers to propose a plan to help stabilize the paper industry as a whole in wisconsin.

Northeast Wisconsin has a great history in the paper industry. But, with recent announcements by Appleton Coated, Appvion, Paper Converters, and now Kimberly-Clark closing mills and laying off close to 1400 total workers, local lawmakers are concerned.

"The closing of these mills and the resulting loss of jobs is especially troubling. Paper industry jobs are some of the best in Wisconsin," says State Sen. Dave Hansen from Green Bay.

In an effort to stabilize the paper industry and avoid future layoffs, Senator Hansen and Representative Amanda Stuck of Appleton are proposing a bill to create a papermakers fund. Thirty million dollars would help to pay for the conversion of papermaking machinery from white paper-- to meet the current demand for brown paper packaging. The other $30-million would fund upgrades to current mills helping to make them more energy efficient.

According to Rep. Stuck, "This is really based on what we've heard from paper companies, what they are saying what their needs are, what they're looking for."

The funds the two seek are equal to just 2% of the $3-billion deal Wisconsin offered Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn.

In Green Bay on Monday, Governor Scott Walker says he has no issue with the state offering incentives to companies, but it has to be worthwhile to wisconsin as well.

The Governor adds, "We're not going to just give out money unless we have some guarantees that, whether it's the papermaking industry or anyone else, that's going to lead to retain or growing jobs in the state.'

Both Stuck and Hansen agree there needs to be accountability and would expect companies to retain jobs if they receive the funding.