Kimberly-Clark plant closures to impact 600 local workers

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NEENAH, Wis. (WBAY) - Kimberly-Clark has announced plans to close two facilities in the Fox Cities, a decision that would impact hundreds of local workers.

The company announced Wednesday plans to shutter the Cold Spring plant in Fox Crossing and Neenah Nonwovens.

Kimberly-Clark says Neenah Nonwovens will close within the next 18 months. The company is still working on a timeline for the closure of Cold Spring.

This announcement will impact about 600 workers at the two facilities.

“As part of the recently announced global restructuring program, which is occurring within the next three years, Kimberly-Clark has today confirmed it has informed employees at the Neenah (WI) Cold Spring Facility, and the United Steelworkers Local 2-482 leadership, of its proposed plan to close this facility. Also today, Kimberly-Clark informed employees at the Neenah (WI) Nonwovens Facility, WI of its plan to close this facility within the next 18 months. Any final decisions related to the Neenah (WI) Cold Spring Facility will be announced by the company after appropriate consultation and/or negotiations with the union and other labor stakeholders. Business decisions that impact our employees are among the most difficult ones to make - we don’t take such decisions lightly. We remain committed to treating our employees fairly and respectfully," reads a statement from the company.

It's part of the company's global restructuring plan that includes cutting 5,000 to 5,550 jobs, or 12-13 percent of its workforce.

The plan, announced in the release of its year-end results and 2018 outlook, includes the closure or sale of 10 facilities.

The company anticipates this plan will generate pre-tax savings of $500-$550 million by the end of 2021.

"This is devastating news. We were hopeful last week that our region would be spared, and today we learned that we have not been spared," Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson tells Action 2 News.

Nelson said this news is a serious hit for the Paper Valley, which has seen workers at paper companies losing jobs to shut downs.

"The last six months we have seen significant layoffs, and/or plant closures affecting now five or six plants," Nelson says. "The question people are asking is a pretty simple question, which is when is this going to end?"

Neenah Mayor Dean Kaufert says the company's decision comes down to saving money.

"They're losing market share in the diaper business, which is what's produced on Henry Street," Kaufert says. "The feminine products that are produced in Cold Spring, it's the restructuring, the need to be profitable, to make money."

The mayor is holding out hope for the Cold Spring facility.

"In further discussions that I had with the company they confirm to me or they affirm they're going to talk to the local union and see if there's any ways that they can make this plant continue to operate profitable," Kaufert says. "That means concessions, changes in benefits, things like that."

Kimberly-Clark's brands include Kleenex and Huggies.

"We will continue to be one of the largest employers in the Neenah area, and our North American Consumer business will continue to be headquartered in Neenah. We remain committed to this community," reads a statement from Kimberly-Clark.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker expressed confidence that the Department of Workforce Development will be able to help the laid off workers find new jobs.

"We have more jobs today than we have people to fill them and those are overwhelmingly in the Fox Valley, good-paying, family-supporting jobs that are very similar to the type of positions those individuals are in right now," said Gov. Walker. "So we are confident that with our Department of Workforce teams, we will be able to come into that region, come into that community and the employers at those sites, and connect them with opportunities that are equal to or greater than the ones they have right now."

In other dire news for the local economy, Bon-Ton announced it would close several Younkers stores in our area. Click here for the story.

State Rep. Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton), released this statement:

“In recent months we have seen bankruptcies and plant closures across the Fox Valley, with good-paying jobs leaving our community and leaving Wisconsin. I can’t help but wonder why we keep getting bad news of closures and layoffs if the economy is recovered and if federal corporate tax cuts will result in job creation.”

“My heart and my thoughts go out to all of the workers and families impacted by these mill closures our community, but thoughts only can get us so far. We need action at the state level to help stop the bleeding in our community. I cannot fathom how leadership in this state has pushed and supported a giveaway of more than $4 billion in tax payer dollars to a foreign company, but have done little to nothing to help the manufacturing industry and companies already located here in Wisconsin. Our Fox Cities Community deserves better.”

State Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) released this statement:

“Kimberly Clark was founded in Neenah, and has been an integral part of our community for generations. As part of a global restructuring plan, over 5,000 jobs are being cut and 10 plants around the world are closing. The Fox Valley makes up 600 of those jobs.

“These employees in the Fox Valley are hard-working, highly skilled, and provide great contributions to our community. Our community must now stand together to meet this challenge, and my office stands ready to help these workers get the assistance they need from the appropriate state and local agencies.

“I’d encourage those affected to reach out to my office if they have any questions or need assistance in finding the appropriate agency.

“With the overall favorable economic climate in this state, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is at 3%, and people are getting jobs faster than ever before. For those who are affected, the Department of Workforce Development has a menu of resources and services for impacted workers including: information sessions covering programs like unemployment insurance, group workshops for job searching, resume assistance, interviewing, and targeted job fairs with area employers.”

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