Madison's plans to save Fox Valley paper jobs

Published: Feb. 5, 2018 at 11:32 AM CST
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Local Democratic lawmakers and Republican Gov. Scott Walker are pushing separate plans to save paper jobs in the Fox Valley following a series of layoffs and plant closures.

In a bill being drafted right now by state Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton), Kimberly Clark would be offered the same tax break that lured Foxconn to Wisconsin. That's 17 percent tax credit for job retention should the company keep its Fox Crossing and Neenah plants running.

"When we brought Foxconn in here it was all about transforming our manufacturing base. What we're doing with Kimberly Clark is, this is a company that's been in our area for a century, they revolutionized the paper industry. I believe they will be the anchor. It's pivotal to having them here," said Sen. Roth.

Unlike Foxconn's $3 billion tax break for 13,000 potential jobs, the deal with Kimberly Clark is expected to cost between $3.06 million and $10.2 million a year, and the 17 percent credit would apply to jobs that pay between $30,000 and $100,000.

Democrats have another idea.

State Rep. Amanda Stuck, State Sen. Dave Hansen, State Rep. Gordon Hintz, and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson gathered Monday to call for the state legislature to approve a Papermaker Fund.

The Papermaker Fund proposal calls for spending two percent of Wisconsin's investment in the Foxconn campus in southeast Wisconsin to help the mills in our area.

Half of the fund would help companies convert equipment from manufacturing white paper to the more in-demand brown paper. The other half would go toward making the plants more energy efficient.

“The funds we are proposing today account for just 2 percent of the total commitment that Governor Walker has made to Chinese-owned Foxconn,” said Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay). “But we believe it’s more than enough to help our mills convert to more prosperous lines of paper and become more efficient in the process.”

This push for legislation comes after

Kimberly-Clark will close Neenah Nonwovens within the next 18 months. It also plans to close Cold Spring in Fox Crossing, but there's no timetable yet for that decision.

The closure of both plants would impact 600 workers.

The local papermaking industry had just taken a hit from hundreds of layoffs at Appvion's Appleton plant and Appleton Coated.

“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," Gov. Walker said in a statement.

Gov. Walker made a stop in Green Bay Monday, prior to announcing his Kimberly-Clark tax incentives plan. During the stop, Action 2 News asked the governor about the Papermaker Fund proposal.

"If they can come and tell us if you put this incentive package on the table, we'll keep this number of jobs, absolutely we'll do that. We've done that in the past and we'll do it again. but we think the key is tying it to jobs," Walker said.

Rep. Stuck (D-Appleton) has proposed a bipartisan Paper Caucus to focus on the topic.

Action 2 News will continue to update this developing story.